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Dilexi justitiam, quaesivi veritatem 



(Element! di Scienza Politico) 










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Political science, 1-2. The experimental method and its limita- 
tions, 3. Science and political science, 4. Environmental 
theories; climate, 5. North and South theories, 6-8, Mountain 
and plain, 9. Eacial theories; the struggle for existence, 10. The 
concept of race; superior and inferior races, 11. Race and social 
type, 12. Evolutionary theories: the struggle for preeminence vs. 
the struggle for existence, 13. Evolution and progress, 14-15. 
The historical method, 16-20. 


The concept of the ruling class, 1. Ruling class and the classifica- 
tion of governments, 2. The organized minority and the unorgan- 
ized majority, 3. Political forces: Military valor: serfdom in 
Poland, 4. Wealth, 5. Religion and learning, 6. Hereditary 
tendencies in ruling classes, 7. Stability and rejuvenation of ruling 
classes, 8. 


VI, 5-8) 70 

The political formula, 1. Social type, 2. Religion and social 
type, 3-5, The feudal type of political organization, 6.*^The 
bureaucratic state, 7-8.~ :- Comte's classification: the three stages, 
9-11. Spencer's classification: militant and industrial states, 


Social type and expansion, 1. Ruling class and mixtures of social 
types, 2. Unity of social type and class differentiation, 3-4. 
Lower classes and social type, 5. Class isolation and social type* 6. 


The moral sense and evolution, 1-2. Mechanisms for moral dis- 
cipline, 3. Religion and morals, 4. Law and morals: juridical 
defense and type of political organization, 5. Despotisms and 
absolute principles, 6. Balance of social forces, 7. Separation of 
church and state, 8. Distribution of wealth and middle class, 9. 



Organization and representation of social forces, 10. Tendencies 
toward self-assertion of social forces: the United States, 11. 


Democratic theory: majority rule, 1. Majority and minority in 
the representative system, 2. Government control of economic 
production, 8. The concept of state, 4. (For Elementi, Chap. 
VI, 5-8, see Chap. Ill above.) 


Groups and the struggle instinct, 1. Sectarian tendencies in human 
groupings, 2. Traits of prophets and founders, 3. The growth 
of religions and sects, 4. Doctrines and social environment, 5. 
The appeal of doctrines to sentiments good and bad, 6. Religion 
and realities: Christianity, Mohammedanism, 7. Choices of faiths: 
mimetism, 8. The Church and worldliness, 9. Persecution and 
mass control, 10. The arts of propaganda, 11. Struggle and 
social type: Is permanent peace desirable? 12. 


Hellenic and medieval revolutions, 1. Roman, feudal, and Moham- 
medan revolutions, 2. Revolutions in China, 3. National upris- 
ings and wars of independence, 4. Peasant rebellions and their 
leaders, 5. Modern French revolutions and over-bureaucratization, 
6. Secret societies, revolutionary traditions, 7. 



Military power in primitive societies, 1. Mercenaries and feudal 
societies, 2. Mercenary tyrannies, 3. Rise of standing armies, 
4. Citizen militias, 5. Social distinctions: officers and privates, 
6. Race and military valor, 7. Standing armies and juridical 
defense, 8. 


Ruling class and the problems of modern society, 1. ^The future of 
religion, 2-4. The crisis of democracy, 5. Evils of parliamen- 
tary systems and types of criticism, 6. Reform of parliamentary 
systems: "constitutional" reform, 7. Decentralization and middle 
class, 8. 

XL COLLECTIVISM (Elementi, Chap. X, 9-19) . . 271 

Ancient socialism; Rousseau and the rise of socialism in Europe, 1. 
Collectivism and faith in social betterment, 2. Ruling class under 
collectivism, 3. Absolute justice and social living, 4. Anarchism, 
5. The class struggle, 6. Socialism and the abolition of poverty, 
7. Causes of the growth of socialism, 8, Prospects of socialism, 
9. Socialism and State control: Christian socialism, 10. Social- 
ism and equality, 11. 



XII. THEOBY OP THE RULING CLASS (Elementi, Part II, Chap. I) .... 329 

History of the concept of ruling class, 1. Hilling class theory and 
democratic bias, 2. The concept of ruling class and scientific 
method, 3. 

Primitive monarchies, 1. The Near-Eastern empire, 2. The 
Greek city-state, 3. Its weaknesses and limitations, $4. 


Ill) 860 

The Roman city-state, and the concept of citizenship, 1. Rise of 
Roman bureaucracy and standing army: the Empire, 2. Decline of 
Roman middle class and fall of the Empire, 3. The barbarian 
kingdoms and feudalism, 4. Rise of the national absolutisms, 5. 
Middle class and representative system, 6. The English consti- 
tution as a model for the Continent, 7. The representative system 
and level of civilization: structural weaknesses of the representative . 
system, 8. 


II, Chap. IV) 394 

Autocratic and liberal principles, aristocratic and democratic ten- 
dencies, 1. Autocratic systems, 2. Ruling class and autocracy, 
3. Liberal systems, 4. The democratic tendency and replenish- 
ment of ruling class, 5. The aristocratic tendency and social fossili- 
zation, 6. Balance of principles and tendencies, 7. 

XVI. RULING CLASS AND INDIVIDUAL (Elementi, Part II, Chap. V) ... 430 
Rulers and ruling class, 1. Ruling class and the governed; foreign 
dominations, 2. Historical materialism, the economic interpreta- 
tion of history, 3. Government by the best, 4. Absolute justice 
and relative justice, 5. Science and social movement, 6. 


Chap. VI) 465 

The nineteenth century as an historical period, 1. Liberty, 
equality, fraternity, and their application, 2. Democracy and level 
of civilization, 3. Germs of decay in the representative system, 
4. Alternatives to the representative system: dictatorship of the 
proletariat, bureaucratic absolutism, syndicalism, 5. Restoration 
of the representative system in Europe, 6. 



I. Taine and Mosca: the Teorica.IL The Concept of History. III. Social 
Forces and Balance of Social Forces. IV. Juridical Defense: the importance of 
Political Organization. V. Standing Armies. VI. Social Type and Political 
Formula. VII. Level of Civilization. VIII. Democracy and Representative 
System. IX. Mosca and Pareto. X. On Translating Mosca. 


Gaetano Mosca's theory of the ruling class was evolved in 
its first form during the years 1878-1881, while Mosca was a* 
student under Angelo Messedaglia atUie iJiiiversity of Palermo. 
It occurred to him at that time to generalize the method which 
Taine had used in the Ancien regime. There, it will be remem- 
bered, Taine sought the origins of the French Revolution in the 
decadence of the groups of people that had ruled France during 
the golden age of the old monarchy, a class which he considered 
and analyzed under three headings, the crown, the clergy and the 

The first thought of the student Mosca was that perhaps any 
society might be analyzed the way Taine had analyzed monarchi- 
cal France; and his second was that, in view of the vogue that 
doctrines of majority rule had had in the nineteenth century, he 
had hit upon a most fertile and suggestive hypothesis, (jit one 
looks closely at any country, be it commonly known as a mon- 
archy, a tyranny, a republic or what one will, one inevitably 
finds that actual power is wielded never by one person, the 
monarch or head of the state, nor yet by the whole community 
of citizens, but by a particular group of people which is always 
fairly small in numbers as compared with the total population. 
Taine had shown, also, that the traits of the brilliant French 
civilization of the age of the Great King were the traits less 
of the French people at large than of the same French aristocracy 
and, in fact, seemed to be connected with the special conditions 
under which that aristocracy had functioned during the seven- 
teenth and eighteenth centuries. That principle, too, could bf 




generalized into the thesis that the dominant traits of the civili- 
zation of a given society during a given period will be the traits 
of the group of people who govern it (politicians, rulers). 

Today Mosca is eighty years old; but at no time in the course 
of his long life has he ever been quite able to forget the thrill of 
discovery that he experienced away back in the seventies as he 
found himself in possession of what he thought to be a golden key 
to the arcana of human history. To tell the truth, the originality 
of his discovery has not seldom been a subject of dispute among 
his colleagues and competitors; and during the fifty years that 
have intervened since those days, many writers have busied 
themselves compiling lists of thinkers who have explicitly noted 
a fact which has always been perfectly apparent to everybody, 
viz., that in all human groups at all times there are the few who 

lie and the many who are ruled. 

The maxim that there is nothing new under the sun is a very 
true maxim; that is to say, it covers about half the truth, which is 
a great deal of truth for a maxim to cover. All human beings 
who have lived on earth have lived, by and large, on the same 
earth. They have all beheld, at least out of the corners of their 
eyes, the same realities; they have all experienced the same 
emotions; they have all thought, we may imagine, the same 
thoughts. But what the history of human civilization shows 
is the unending variety with which individuals evaluate the 
various things that everybody sees. Probably no human being 
since Adam has been without an approximate knowledge of the 
law of gravity; but no one till Galileo's day thought of centering 
his whole attention upon the falling object and making it the 
pivot of a scientific revolution. No human being since the day 
of Cain and Abel has been unaware that people preach moral 
principles and then use such power as they have often, if not 
always, without regard to moral principles. Yet no one before 
Machiavelli ever thought of taking that fact and founding upon 
it a scientific politics which would eliminate ethical considerations. 
I believe Croce has said it somewhere: ^he i>riginality of thinkers 
lies not always in their seeinf foings that nobody else 
seen, but^rften in the stress tiiB3^gH g ^Tin W fo flu 
Ind now tothat. I consider it useful to make this little digres- 
sion r forthe benefit of an ever-lengthening roster of source 
hunters who spend their time drawing literary and scientific 


parallels without considering questions of stress or the uses that 
men of genius make of commonplaces. CThe medieval Venetians 
or the ancient Romans were so much in possession of the concept 
of class and of the concept of ruling classes that they devised 
meticulous legislation to cover class relations and even the 
movement of social atoms from class to class. All the same, no 
Venetian and no Roman ever formulated Mosca's theory of the 
ruling class. Class is a visible external fact of everyday life in 
Europe, and few European writers have been able to discuss 
social problems at any great length without eventually encoun- 
tering the fact of class, of class struggle, of class circulation, in 
some form or other. None of them, however, not Guicciardini, 
not Marx, not Taine, made the use of the fact of class that Mosca 
made. And conversely, one may say the same of those who have 
paralleled or utilized Mosca of Michels, of Sorel, of Paretoy 
! Why do individual thinkers come to stress certain relations and 
facts which everybody observes and takes for granted? Usu- 
ally these problems of personal evolution are beyond recovery by 
history. We shall never know why Voltaire became a mocking 
skeptic while his brother remained a pious "enthusiast.? We 
know, indeed, that, in periods of intense and free cultural activ- 
ity, if a certain number of intellectuals are placed in one general 
environment in the presence of the same general problems, certain 
numbers of them will evolve the same solutions. This fact is 
ordinarily taken account of in the remark that at certain periods 
certain concepts, certain manners of thinking, seem to be "in the 
air." Sorel developed the concept of the political myth in 
the first decade of the twentieth century. Mosca had developed 
his concept of the "political formula" twenty years before. 
Sorel was not a methodical scholar. He kn^w nothing of Mosca. 
Evidently the concept was "in the air." (\For two generations 
before Mosca's time, socialism had been emphasizing the con- 
flict of classes, and in Italy in particular the educated classes 
had become explicitly aware of their duties and responsibilities 
as "leading" or "directing" classes (dassi dirigenti). One 
should not be surprised, therefore, at such evident parallels as 
exist between Mosca and many other thinkers before him or 
after him. J 

While tne details of individual evolution most often remain 
undiscoverable, apart from individual memoirs or confessions 


which are themselves not too trustworthy in such regards, one i& 
usually able to note certain general environmental circumstances 
that seem to influence individual choices of stress in certain 
directions. When we find Mosca in possession of Taine in 1878, 
we should not forget that Mosca was an Italian while Taine was 
a Frenchman. I find it very French in Taine that he should 
never have been interested in the general bearings of the method 
that he was using. So true is this that, as he proceeds to rear 
his intellectual structure about the old regime, he is continually 
led into the fallacy of assigning particular causes (associated with 
the fact of the exclusion of the French aristocracy from their 
feudal functions) to phenomena that are general and world- 
wide preciosity, for instance, rationality, politeness, display, all 
of which recur in times and places where ruling classes are situ- 
ated far otherwise than was the French aristocracy of the golden 
age. I find it also very French in Taine that he should never 
free himself, in the Origines, from the preoccupation with good 
citizenship. Aspiring indeed to a stern and rigorous historical 
method, Taine can think of history only as at the service of 
certain high moral ideals. 

Mosca instead was an Italian, to whom the analytical method 
of thinking came naturally. He leaped upon Taine's method as 
a tool for straight thinking and sought to be, and, to a surprising 
extent in one still so young, succeeded in being "objective." 
I find that very Italian. Italians do easily and as a matter of 
course what other human beings do rarely, if at all, and then 
only with great effort and after hard and sustained discipline: 
they think by processes of distinction. While the rest of the 
world is hunting for ways to show that the true is good and the 
good true, and that both are beautiful, the Italians are busy 
keeping virtue, truth and beauty separate and in the heart as 
well as in the mind. Perhaps that is the great Italian "contribu- 
tion to civilization," which Italian nationalists are always trying 
to discover. 

One may as well add that Mosca is a Sicilian (born at Palermo 
in 1858). That too is a determining factor in his individuality 
which Americans especially should bear in mind. /Americans 
as a rule stand at an opposite pole to the run of Sicilians in their 
manner of approaching life through thought. Americans are 
impatient of theory and suspicious of philosophies and general 


principles. We study history and almost never the philosophy 
of history. Few American lawyers will have anything to do with 
the philosophy of law. Let an American show a definite pro- 
pensity for theoretica^genefalizing and he wiIT EeTSaSecl Jrpm 
as an impracCcarnTenacei It is amazing, on the 

other "hand, witE"wKaf & deartTTcfljieoretical discipline certain 
famous Americans can get along through life and go far. To that 
deficiency we partly owe the reputation for ignorance and na!vet6 
that we enjoy, as a nation, in a more sophisticated Europe.^ The 
level of theory in the United States is much lower than the level 
of theory on the Continent. The Continent in its turn is, on 
the whole, in the rear of Italy in this respect, and the great 
Italian theoreticians tend to be southerners. In a charming 
"confession" with which he prefaced the 1884 edition of the 
Teorica, Mosca tells of his great interest as a boy in history and 
boasts of his retentive memory. But what strikes one in Mosca, 
the historian, is the fact that history has no meaning whatever 
to him until it has become general principle, uniformity, philos- 
ophy. So it was with Vico and Bruno, and so it is with Croce 
all men of the Italian South. 

Two other determinations, one professional, the other Sicilian, 
have perhaps a more direct bearing upon Mosca's development 
of the vision he owed in the first instance to Taine. V In the 
Teorica of 1884, Mosca kept strictly to problems of government, 
and that interest is paramount even in the Elements. This 
narrowing of his field is all the more striking as one contrasts 
the uses to which the concept of class, or of the ruling class, has 
been put by thinkers all the way from Marx to Pareto.) The 
reason undoubtedly is that Mosca began life as a student of 
constitutional law and of political theories. He became an 
unsalaried lecturer on-JJiQjgfe, subjects, first at Palermo (1881- 
1886), then at Rome (1887-1895) . Prom Rome he went on to be a 
professor of constitutional law at Turin (1895-19&3), returning 
to Rome (1923-1931) as professor of political theories. Now it 
is clear that government proper is only one phase of social life, 
while the implications of the theory of the ruling class as Taine 
had applied that theory in the sixties and as Mosca had con- 
ceived it in 1881, lead out into society as a whole and beckon 
toward a general sociology, Mosca was never to follow them 
in that direction beyond the limits reached in the Elements] 


Perhaps in a spirit of professional specialization, perhaps for 
practical reasons, he always kept turning backward and inward 
upon the strictly constitutional or political problem, leaving 
some of his richest and most suggestive ideas in the form of hints, 
assertions, or casual observations, but at any rate undeveloped. 

Sicilian again one may call the political bent which Mosca's 
placid biography shows. Not all Sicilians are politicians, but 
when a Sicilian is a politician he is a good one. The Sicilian 
takes to politics as a duck to water. North Italians, too, of 
course, have been seen in Italian public life. But they make a 
great to-do about it. They shout and wave their arms from 
soap-boxes, they fill the newspapers with their publicities, their 
polemics, their marches on Rome, they fight libel suits and 
duels; and finally they get into the government, only to be upset, 
as likely as not, at the next turn of the wheel. The Sicilian, 
instead, simply takes the train and goes to Rome, where a 
coach-in-four is waiting to drive him to what Carducci called 
"the summit of the Capijol." That, more or less, was Mosca's 
experience in public life. Editor of the journal of the Chamber of 
Deputies from 1887 to 1895 (a bureaucratic post it maintained 
him during his unpaid lectureship at the university), he became 
a deputy himself in 1908, and sat with the Liberal Conservatives 
during two legislatures till 1918 (those included the war years), 
serving also as under-secretary for the Colonies under the 
Salandra ministry (1914-1916). And there he was, in 1918, 
senator for life by the usual royal appointment, and all without 
any great clamor, any boisterous quarrels or exposures, without 
even any particular public fame. Prezzolini and Papini tried 
to publicize Mosca in 1903-1904 "to valorize him as a public 
asset/' as the language went in those days. Prezzolini made a 
second effort in his Voce series in 1912 (see // nuovo nazionalwmo). 
One need mention this aspect of Mosca's career, always eminent 
yet never prominent, simply as reinforcing the mental attitudes 
that inclined him to leave his work permanently in a somewhat 
embryonic form, and even to subordinate it, in some few respects, 
to the outlook of a political party. 

The Italian and Sicilian background, the professional outlook, 
the political talent, which are revealed by this forward look from 
Mosca's student days, help us to understand the developments 
that Mosca gave to his theory of the ruling class in the years 


1881-1883. At that time he was in possession of three or four 
simple concepts which he thought he could use for the construc- 
tion of an outline history of the rise of the modern state. ( Con- 
trary to theories of majority rule, he perceived, societies are 
always ruled by minorities, by oligarchies. The current classifi- 
cation of governments, therefore Aristotle's (monarchies, aris- 
tocracies, democracies), Montesquieu's (absolutisms, limited 
monarchies, republics), Spencer's (militant and industrial 
states) could be dispensed with in favor of a classification of 
oligarchies. Essaying this classification, Mosca distinguished a 
number of types: military and priestly aristocracies, hereditary 
aristocracies, aristocracies of landowners, aristocracies of liquid 
wealth (money), aristocracies of merit (allowing, that is, free 
access to power to all elements in society and notably to people 
of the poorer classes). Now the various political theories that 
have prevailed in history "chosen people" theories based on 
conceptions of race or family, divine-right theories or theories of 
popular sovereignty by np means reflect the realities underlying 
this classification. Mosc4, therefore, went on to develop his 
theory of the "political formula." There is always a ruling 
minority, but such minorities never stop at the brute fact of 
holding power. They justify their rule by theories or principles 
which are in turn based on beliefs or ethical systems which are 
accepted by those who are ruled. These "political formulas" 
contain very little that could be described as "truth," but they 
should not be regarded as deliberate deceptions or mystifications 
on the part of scheming rulers. They express, rather, a deep 
need in human nature whereby the human being more readily 
defers to abstract universal principles than to the will of indi- 
vidual human beings. / 7 

Mature in 1881, these ideas were formulated in the Teorica 
dei gwerni e governo parlamentare, which was complete in 1883 and 
published in 1884 (2d ed., 1925). In spite of its age and the 
writings of Mosca that have followed it, this book still has its 
interest and its points of originality. Eleven years later, 1895, 
Mosca completed and published his Elements (Elementi di 
scienza politico,, 1896). 

As compared with the Teoriea> the Elements presents the theory 
of the ruling class in more rounded form, along with a series of 
new concepts that are exceedingly suggestive) 



In the Elements, in line with an outstanding preoccupation 
of European scholarship during the nineties, Mosca confronts 
the problem of constructing a political science (which he prefers 
to keep distinct from sociology). The content of that science 
will be the discovery of the constant tendencies or laws that 
determine the behavior of the human masses (page 1) and 
regulate the organization of political authority (page 3). These 
tendencies or laws can be discovered only from a study of "social 
facts," which in turn can be found only in the history of the 
various nations (page 41): "It is to the historical method that 
we must return." 

Actually, Mosca's practice is better than this incomplete 
statement would indicate. / He will of course take the facts 
about society from any source or method that can supply them, 
only so they are facts from economics, from anthropology, from 
psychology, or any similar science. He does explicitly reject 
for the politico-social field any absolute or exclusive acceptance 
of climatic or north-and-south theories, anthropological theories 
based on the observation of primitive societies (the question 
of size is important), the economic interpretation of history (it 
is too unilateral), doctrines of racial superiorities and inferiorities 
(many different races have had their moments of splendor), and 
evolutionary theories (they fail to account for the rhythmical 
movement of human progress biological evolution would 
require continuous improvement). ,)However, apart from some 
keen remarks (as, for instance, those on the limitations of the 
experimental method or on the applicability of science to the 
control of social living), the main interest in this statement of 
the problem of scientific sociology lies in the fact that it undoubt- 
edly influenced the penetrating and altogether novel discussion 
of the same problem in Pareto's Trattato (chap. I), which, in 
turn, is the final enlargement of an essay by Pareto written in 

The interest of Mosca's view comes out if we consider it not 
from the standpoint of social science, but from that of historical 
science. Now if one were to say that this view is new and 
original, a host of scholars would appear with no end of citations 
to show that Mosca says nothing that has not been known to 


everyone since the days of Herodotus. Historians have always 
felt more or less vaguely that their work ought somehow to 
enrich human experience, that one can, after all, learn something 
from the fact that billions of human beings have lived out their 
lives on earth before us. Historians as metaphysical and 
theological as Bonald have always contended that history con- 
firmed their arbitrary creeds. On the other hand a very respect- 
able list of authorities could be quoted to show that history can 
teach us nothing; that life is always new; that where there is a 
will there is a way; that no impulse of the present need be 
checked in the light of analogies from the past. If one examines 
the present outlook of historical science in the United States, one 
observes a considerable variety of attitudes and practices. Of 
the routine and elementary task of the historian, the construc- 
tion of the historical record, there is general awareness, and one 
notes many distinguished performances in this field. As to 
the meaning of the record, its utility why "to know all about 
Poussin" is any more important than to know how many ciga- 
rette butts are thrown daily on the subway stairs the greatest 
bewilderment prevails. There is the anecdotic interest in 
history, the sentimental titillation that comes from reliving 
exciting episodes in the past or retraversing the lives of unusual 
or successful individuals (the common rule in literary or free- 
lance productions). There is the propaganda history, where 
the writer is meticulous about the accuracy of the record and 
even makes contributions to it, but then feels it necessary to 
give the record an apparent meaning by saucing it with reflec- 
tions which amount to saying, "I am a pacifist"; "I am a 
socialist"; "I am a Catholic"; and so on. There is the pseudo- 
scientific or semi-artistic history where the record is again 
accurate and fairly complete, but where the writer gives it an 
arbitrary meaning by organizing the facts around more or less 
unconscious sentimental attitudes borrowed from his environ- 
ment, now ethical, now romantic, now optimistic, now (if the 
author is unusually intelligent) ironical or cynical. Finally, 
there is the Bobinsonian history, the most scientific of these 
various types, where the past is taken as the explanation of the 
present, and, to a certain extent, the present is taken as the 
explanation of the past, but where the matter of choosing ideals 
is regularly left hazy and doubtful. 


Into this atmosphere Mosca's conception of history should 
come as a clarifying breeze. The record of human experience 
is now from three to ten thousand years old. It is probable that 
during that time human nature has been able to make a fairly 
complete revelation of its general traits, its basic tendencies and 
laws. What are those tendencies, those laws? It is the business 
of the historian to tell us, and history is a mere amusement, a 
purposeless activity, unless its record is made to contribute to 
knowledge of tendencies and laws. To complete this theory a 
remark or two may be necessary. The construction of the 
historical record, the determination of facts in their sequence, 
motives or causes is a research by itself. In itself it has no 
purpose and envisages no utility. It has its own methods, its own 
technique, which reign sovereign over the research. As regards 
what can be learned from history, it is clear that the latter 
can supply only the general forms of human behavior the 
specific situation will always be new, without exact precedent 
or analogy in the past. 

Mosca feels that history is probably better able to tell us what 
not to do than what to do in the given case. But, really, it 
always remains a question of tendencies, of psychological, social 
forces which man may conceivably learn to master some day, 
the way he has learned, and marvelously learned, to master and 
utilize the material forces of nature. At any rate, Mosca's 
conception of history suggests the proper attitude to take toward 
his various theses. "Human societies are always governed 
by minorities"; "Rapid class circulation is essential to prog- 
ress"; "Human societies are organized around collective illu- 
sions"; "Level of civilization corresponds to grade of juridi- 
cal defense"; "Human societies show a tendency to progress 
toward higher and higher levels of civilization"; " Over-bureau- 
cratization facilitates revolution." These and the others like 
them would be so many tentative statements of general laws. 
They are subject to objective scientific criticism, emendation, 


(The concept of social forces was already present in Mosca's 
early Teorica. In the Elements it is amplified, and its implica- 
tions are more fully perceived. 


A "social force" is any human activity or perquisite that has a 
social significance money, land, military prowess, religion, 
education, manual labor, science anything. The concept 
derives from the necessity of defining and classifying ruling 
classes. A man rules or a group of men rules when the man or the 
group is able to control the social forces that, at the given moment 
in the given society, are essential to the possession and retention 
of power/ 

/ Implicit in the theory of the ruling class is the law (I like to 
call it "Mosca's law") that "type and level of civilization vary 
as ruling classes vary." Ruling classes will vary in respect to the 
number and grade of the social forces which they control, toler- 
ate, stimulate or create. The internal stability of a regime can 
be measured by the ratio between the number and strength of the 
social forces that it controls or conciliates, in a word, represents, 
and the number and strength of the social forces that it fails to 
represent and has against it. Progressive, and one might even 
say "successful," regimes regularly create social forces which 
they find it difficult to absorb; governments often fall because 
of their virtues, not their defects) (a drastic emendation to Taine 
and to ethical interpretations <)f history in general). Struggle 
is one of the continuous and never-failing aspects of human life. 
Social forces, therefore, regularly manifest themselves in aspira- 
tions to power. Soldiers want to rule, and they are a hard group 
to control since they hold the guns and know best how to use 
them. Money wants to rule and it is hard to control money 
because most people succumb to the glamour and influence of 
wealth. Priests want to rule, and they have the weight of the 
ignorant masses and the majesty of the mysteries of life in their 
favor. Scientists want to rule, and, from Plato to Comte and 
from Comte to Scott, they have dreamed of dictators who will 
establish their technocracies and their "rules of the best." 
Labor wants to rule and would rule did it not always encounter 
the law of the ruling class and fall into the hands of its leaders. 
Public officeholders want to rule, and they might easily do so 
for they already sit in the seats of power, j 

When we have Mosca safely ensconced among the immortals, a 
mystery will confront the historian of social theories: Why, 
having reached this point in his meditations, did Mosca not 
throw his political research away and set out to write a sociology? 


The answer will probably be found in the professional and tem- 
peramental determinations to which we have alluded. Mosca 
was thinking primarily of the political aspects of society and 
could never wholly divest himself of that interest. 

Montesquieu had supplied him, already in his student days, 
with the concept of balance with Montesquieu it was a balance 
of powers, of which the American constitution was eventually to 
supply an impressive example. Mosca transfers the concept to 
social forces. 

In certain cases we see social forces that do succeed in usurping 
power, and one symptom of the usurpation is their imposition 
by force of the political formula that they happen to hold as an 
absolute principle to which everyone must bow and which every- 
one must believe or pretend to believe. That means tyranny, 
and it also means a reduction in the number of active social 
forces and, therefore, a drop in level of civilization. In other 
cases we see, for example, military power checked and balanced 
by money or by religion; or money, perhaps, checked and 
balanced by taxation imposed by land; or an obstreperous reli- 
gious hierarchy checked and balanced now by superstitious sects 
which grow up within itself, now by coalitions of external forces 
of enlightenment. At certain moments they are the heavenly 
interludes in history we see fairly stable balances of forces 
where nearly everyone can do as he pleases and have his say so 
that the whole infinite potentialities of human nature burst 
into bloom. 


This beneficent balance is attained, Mosca decides, at times 
and in peoples where it has become law, where, that is, the 
aggressiveness of social forces, or of the individuals who embody 
them, is checked, not by the sheer manifestation of force applied 
case by case, but by habit, custom, acquiescence, morals, insti- 
tution and constitution in a word (his word), juridical defense 
(government by law with due process). Contrary to Marxist, 
evolutionary and other materialistic or sociological interpreta- 
tions of history, Mosca holds that the problem of political organ- 
ization is paramount. If ruling classes can be appraised by 
noting the number and grade of social forces which they recognize, 


the governments which various ruling classes manage can be 
appraised by the grade of juridical defense which they provide. 
This Mosca seems sometimes to regard as very largely a technical 
problem of government. A blossoming Mohammedan civiliza- 
tion first became stationary and then declined because the 
caliphs failed to solve the problem of the army. The armies 
in the provinces followed their generals, the generals became 
independent and arbitrary despots; social forces contracted in 
numbers and then languished. There is no reason to assume 
that the evolution of the Mohammedan peoples was any more 
predetermined than that of the Christian peoples. The fact 
is that at certain moments in their history they, or rather their 
ruling classes, must have made wrong political decisions that 
headed them toward decline instead of toward higher levels 
of civilization. In the case of the Mohammedan world one 
mistake, according to Mosca's system, would have been the 
failure to separate church and state, since that separation he 
regards as one of the basic essentials for a proper balance of 
social forces. 

A high grade of juridical defense depends also, Mosca con- 
tends, upon a sufficient division of wealth to allow of the existence 
in fairly large numbers of people of moderate means; in fact, the 
numbers of such people will probably supply the gauge for 
measuring the effectiveness and stability of the balance of social 
forces. The presence of a strong middle class in a society means 
that education is discovering and utilizing the resources of talent 
which, quite independently of race and heredity, are forever 
developing in the human masses at large (resources which 
backward societies somehow fail to use; that is why they are back- 
ward). It also means that the ruling classes always have avail- 
able materials with which to restock and replenish themselves 
as their own personnels deteriorate under pressure of the multiple 
forces that are always edging aristocracies toward decline. 
Middle classes represent the variety and the intensity of a 
society's activities and the maximum variety in types of wealth 
and in distribution of wealth. Standing apart from the daily 
clash of the more powerful interests, they are the great repositor- 
ies of independent opinion and disinterested public spirit. One 
hardly need say it; In developing these postulates and their 
many corollaries, Mosca has written the classic of Italian con- 


servatism, which functioned as an influential minority in Italy's 
political life just before the war. 

But supposing we bring these arguments back to the strictly 
objective plane. We have spoken of "mistakes" and of choices 
as though the lawgivers of Mosca, like those of Rousseau or of 
the many writers who antedated the rise of deterministic theories, 
were free agents who could do with society just as they pleased. 
Suppose it be conceded that the separation of church and state 
and a distribution of wealth that allows the existence of a strong 
middle class are essential in a society if it is to attain a high level 
of civilization. How is science to obtain the recognition and 
application of those "laws" in the face of the religious interests 
which will in all pious enthusiasm continue to strive for uniform- 
ity of dogma and for control of education and the state, and in the 
face of the greed of human beings, who will go madly on amassing 
great fortunes and then using them to acquire power and domin- 
ion? Mosca leaves us no hope except in the enlightened states- 
manship of those who wield power over the nations. Instructive 
in this connection is the distinction he draws between the 
politician and the statesman, the former being the man who is 
skilled in the mere art of obtaining power and holding it, whereas 
the latter is the man who knows how to manipulate the blind 
instincts of the human masses in the direction of conformity 
with the laws of man's social nature, much as the navigator 
manipulates the brute forces of tide and wind to the advantage 
of his ship and its passengers. Mosca has little confidence in 
the inborn good sense of the masses and despairs of ever bringing 
any great number of people to a rational and scientific view of 
public problems. \ History shows not a few ruling classes, 
on the other hand, the Venetian and English aristocracies, for 
instance, which have been able to lay interests and sentiments 
aside to a very considerable extent and to govern scientifically 
and objectively .\ 


.Ampler consideration of the problem of juridical defense leads 
Mosca to one of the most brilliant and original investigations 
in the Elements. Prom the standpoint of struggle, military 
power is the best equipped of all social forces to assert itself 
and claim dominion. Why then is the military dictatorship 


not the normal form of human government? The peoples of 
the western world have for some generations now been familiar 
with systems where armies and navies are rigidly subject to 
civil authorities, and they are wont to regard the military 
rebellion as something exceptional and monstrous. Actually 
the human beings who have lived on this earth in security from 
the brutal rule of the soldier are so few in number, on the back- 
ground of the whole of human history, as hardly to count. 
The military tyranny in some form or other is in fact the common 
rule in human society; and even in the best-ordered societies, as 
we are only too easily able to observe after the experience of the 
nineteenth and twentieth centuries in Europe, any serious dis- 
turbance of an established order of a nonmilitary type is likely 
to result in a reversion to the military dictatorship. The process 
by which the modern civilized nations have escaped from this 
grievous law of man's social nature Mosca rightly regards as 
one of the most interesting in history. Paradoxically enough, 
and contrarily to the modes of thinking of those liberals who 
dream of total disarmaments, Mosca finds the solution of the 
secret in the growth of the standing army. 

Croce, somewhere in the Ethics, classifies human beings into 
four types, corresponding to the stresses of the four "forms of the 
spirit" which he makes basic in his system: the artist, the 
scientist, the statesman, the saint. That classification overlooks 
the adventurer, the warrior, the man who instinctively resorts 
to violence in his relations with his fellow men and prefers 
dangerous living to any other mode of existence. The antics of 
this individual on the stage of history are so conspicuous and 
withal so fascinating that a virtual revolution in historical 
method has been required in order to win some attention from 
the thoughtful for the types whom Croce recognizes. Give the 
adventurer a good brain, a good education, a supply of genius 
and an historical opportunity, and he becomes a Napoleon or an 
Alexander. Give him a great ideal and he becomes a Garibaldi. 
Give him a chance and he becomes a Mussolini. Give him a 
job and he becomes a soldier and a general. Ignore him and he 
becomes the gangster and the outlaw. A believer in final causes 
might soundly assert that the man of violence was invented by a 
wise Creator as a sort of catalyzer for human progress. The 
adventurer is never in the majority. The majority of human 


beings prefer peaceful orderly existences, and, when they dream, 
they dream of heavens where there is only light and music and 
no sorrow or toil, where the lion lies down with the lamb, where 
manna falls now from the sky and now from the government, 
where, in short, we are free from the competition of our neighbors 
and from the wearying struggle of life. Eras of prosperity are 
continually recurring in human history when the dream of 
security and idleness seems almost realizable; then, just as 
regularly, the man of violence comes along and sets the wheels 
to grinding again. So in our day, the citizens of the prosperous 
democracies had referred the movement of history to the social 
workers and the lawyers at Geneva in order to settle back in the 
night clubs to enjoy the nobility of their peaceful sentiments 
and the dividends of science. But a Hitler, a Mussolini, a 
Japanese general rises and tells them that to win or retain the 
right to drink and dance and be self-complacent they have to get 
out and fight. 

On the other hand, the man of violence is not much more than 
that. The world that he creates is a pretty wretched affair. 
Give him the power and he regularly enslaves the rest of men, 
leaving them only the bare means of subsistence. Quite regu- 
larly he stultifies thought into hypocrisy and flattery, and the 
stimulating lift of organized public spirit he replaces with some 
form of mob fanaticism. 

Mosca conceives of the standing army as a device automatically 
arrived at by the modern world for disciplining, canalizing and 
making socially productive the combative elements in the 
peoples. In loosely organized societies ^olence oncentrates 
around a large number of different focuses and differing inter- 
ests, and the anarchy of the Middle Ages and of feudal societies 
at large results. In our own day, in Russia, Italy, Germany, 
Spain, we have seen that as soon as the stability of a society 
wavers power recreates itself in small center, and periods of 
rule by local gangs ensue for greater or lesser lengths of time. 
The standing army, instead, tapers up to conti j by the state 
and therefore becomes part and parcel of the social order. 
Strong enough to enable the state to master local or sporadic 
manifestations of violence, it is itself under the direct control 
of all those mighty social forces which create and maintain 
the state itself. Recent history again confirms this conception 


of the status and objective role of the standing army. The 
national army of our time is an organism of incalculable might. 
The human forces which it embraces, the weapons and other 
material agencies of which it disposes, are incredibly powerful. 
Yet we have seen two revolutions take place in great and highly 
civilized countries in the face of the army and against the army. 
Certain observers of the rise of Fascism and National Socialism 
in Italy and in Germany looked to the loyally monarchical or 
republican armies to crush those movements, and undoubtedly 
they could have with a mere show of force. But the submersion 
of the German and Italian armies in the established order was 
complete, and, lacking the impulse from the apex of civil author- 
ity, they did not move. Not only that: Once new rulers were 
established in the seats of power, the armies responded obediently 
to their new orders. 

What is the secret of the amazing subordination of the armies 
of the West? Mosca finds the answer in the aristocratic char- 
acter, so to say, of the army, first in the fact that there is a wide 
and absolute social distinction between private and officer, and 
second that the corps of officers, which comes from the ruling 
class, reflects the balance of multiple and varied social forces 
which are recognized by and within that class. The logical 
implications of this theory are well worth pondering. If the 
theory be regarded as sound, steps toward the democratization 
of armies the policy of Mr. Hore-Belisha, for instance are 
mistaken steps which in the end lead toward military dictator- 
ships; for any considerable democratization of armies would 
make them active social forces reflecting all the vicissitudes of 
social conflict and, therefore, preponderant social forces. On the 
other hand, army officers have to be completely eliminated from 
political life proper. When army officers figure actively and 
ex officio in political councils, they are certain eventually to 
dominate those councils and replace the civil authority the 
seemingly incurable cancer of the Spanish world, for an example. 


The concept of social type is basic in Mosca's thought, and, 
since the phenomenon of the social grouping is one of the facts 
that the historian encounters at the most superficial glance at 
society, there is nothing remarkable in that. An elementary 


discussion of what Mosca calls social type is already present in 
Machiavelli. Mosca's analysis of the elements that constitute 
the greater social groupings was complete in the nineties. It is 
interesting that at that early date he was discounting race as a 
factor in the sense of nationality and emphasizing the greater 
importance of the myth of race. But he was also, with remark- 
able insight, foreseeing an intensification of nationalisms in the 
twentieth century as a sort of compensation for the decline of 
faith in the world religions which, under the pressure of experi- 
mental science, were losing their utility as cohesive forces in 
society. Quite original and too much neglected, I believe, is 
Mosca's conception of the modern sense of nationality as a 
product of the world religions, to the extent that those religions, 
with their doctrines that transcend race and nationality, came to 
embrace the most diverse groups within the same social type 
and so inclined those groups to coalesce individually around 
political formulas of a nonreligious character. That doctrine 
throws light upon the conflict of church and state in the Middle 
Ages in the West, a conflict that was essential to the growth of 
secular civilization which rescued Europe from the fossilization 
that settled upon the Mohammedan and eastern worlds. In 
this regard Mosca, one may say, has formulated rather than 
prosecuted the research into the complicated interplay of group 
instincts within each separate society. His conclusions, at any 
rate, are susceptible of almost indefinite elaboration. 

The methodological advantages of Mosca's concept of social 
type are very considerable. In the first place it points the way 
to sound scientific solutions of conflicts that cannot be solved by 
ethical methods. For instance, the United States prohibits 
the immigration of Asiatics. Whenever our diplomats go 
prattling about democratic principles or even Christian principles 
they expose themselves to devastating rejoinder from the Japa- 
nese diplomats, who can quite properly observe that democratic 
or Christian principles would require unlimited Asiatic immigra- 
tion. It is well to note, therefore, that the questions at issue 
are not questions of democratic theory or Christian ethics, but 
questions of social type, which latter are always settled either 
by force or by accommodation and reconciliation of apparent 


To complete our examination of conscience we might go on and 
ask what, then, we are to do with our democratic principles and 
our Christian ethics? The answer is that these latter are for- 
mulas which have a very limited scientific validity and function 
as guides of conduct within strictly limited fields. What those 
limits shall be, just how and where they shall be drawn, are 
problems for statesmen, not for pastors or for professors of 
ethics. Our civilization subsists only so long as our social type 
subsists. Whether or not certain social types "ought" to vanish 
in the interests of civilization is a cosmic question that could be 
answered only by some neutral divinity looking at our planet 
from afar off. What we know is that social types good and bad 
insist on existing and that the measure of that insistence is a 
measure of force (or of accommodation as a substitute for force). 
So it is with any conflict between a universal ethical ideal and the 
instincts and the interests of social type. 

The extent to which political formulas of universal pretension 
are serviceable for specific groups is an interesting and important 
one which the events of our time have raised to a critical prom- 
inence. Hitler's Germany seems to have concluded that a 
national myth in which only Germans can believe is of stronger 
cohesive potency than universal myths such as Christianity, 
democracy or socialism. Apparent to the eye is the advantage 
of ease of enforcement, in that such a myth makes a direct appeal 
to group instincts without mitigations or attenuations from 
rationality. But equally apparent are the disadvantages. 
Strictly national myths, like the "chosen people" myths of the 
Jews or Greeks, tend to sharpen international antagonisms 
unduly. Hitler is building up the same universal detestation 
that the pan-Germanism of the first decade of the century 
aroused. Such myths, besides, have in the past been effective 
only on very low planes of civilization where they have had very 
few social forces to fuse or coordinate. One may wonder 
whether German civilization will not in the end be oversimplified 
by the long inculcation of an exclusively national myth. 

Fascist Italy is working on the theory that the universal 
myth can be subordinated to the national myth (subjugation of 
church to state) and then used as a channel of influence upon the, 
countries that accept or tolerate it. Says Mussolini (to Pro- 


fessor Starkie, The Waveless Plain, page 397): "The Latin 
tradition of Imperial Rome is represented by Catholicism. . . . 
There are in the world over 400,000,000 men [i.e., human beings] 
who look towards Rome from all parts of the earth. That is a 
source of pride for us Italians." Soviet Russia is using a uni- 
versal political formula, communism, and explicitly claims 
leadership over the minorities which accept the myth in other 
countries. The myth intrinsically has considerable potency, as 
resting on powerful combative sentiments (hatred of the poor 
for the rich), reinforced by humanitarian sentiments of aversion 
to suffering (poverty can be abolished). In this sense it has its 
analogies with early democratic theory, which rested on those 
same sentiments. It is less fortunate than democratic theory in 
respect of the sentiments of property. These it openly flouts, 
whereas democratic theory takes full advantage of them. It is 
curious that Russian nationalism has grown in intensity under 
the communist political formula much as the western national- 
isms grew up inside the Christian and democratic formulas. 
However, all such formulas are absolute and strive to achieve 
uniformity of acceptance. When their universal character is 
taken too seriously, believed, that is, with too great ardor, they 
suck the life blood from the social type, either by absorbing too 
much of the type's combative energy or by oversimplifying its 
structure and so lowering its civilization levely 

Mosca's concept of social type has another methodological 
advantage in that it supplies the general form and, therefore, 
emphasizes the common nature of many varied phenomena. 
Two men see each other at a distance in Hong Kong. They 
meet in Cairo, and the fact that they had seen each other at a 
distance in Hong Kong constitutes a bond between them that 
justifies closer contacts. They form thereby an embryonic 
social type, which rests upon a single, inconsequential fact. 
At another extreme we find millions of people bound together 
by millions of ties, memories, interests, common experiences. 
It is the same phenomenon but with a differing inner structure. 
Mosca's concept of the social type supplies a tool for severing 
the common from the differing elements. It stops, however, one 
step short of Pareto's concept of group-persistence persistence 
of relations between persons and things, which would be an 
hypothesis for investigating the basic psychological phenomena 


involved in human associations of whatever type. Parties, 
sects, religions, movements, nations, states, are still often 
regarded as separate phenomena. "Nationalism began with 
the French Revolution," writes an American historian. Actually 
nationalism began with Adam, in the sense that it rests upon a 
fundamental law of human nature, which can be seen at work 
in thousands of other manifestations. 

Mosca repeatedly emphasizes the historical utility of the social 
type as coordinating a multiplicity of wills and efforts for the 
achievement of common ends. ^On that basis it can be seen that 
history will be a play of two contrary forces, a trend toward 
unity and expansion, and a trend toward diversity and concen- 
tration. The Abyssinians, the Armenians and the Californians 
are Christians, and humanity surely profits in many ways from 
that advance toward world solidarity group and even class 
isolation seem regularly to be elements in social fossilization and 
decline. On the other hand/the world has profited even more 
from particularity of social type the existence of separate and 
powerful groups, all on the offensive and on the defensive, each 
struggling first for independence and then for domination, each 
living in a fever heat of life and death struggle in which the 
talents and moral traits of its individual members are stimulated 
and utilized to the utmost. Even within particular types a 
very considerable play of subtypes is an advantage, as implying 
multiplicity of social forces. This is just the reverse of the 
doctrine of 'Bossuet who viewed multiplicity of social types 
(or rather of political formulas) as disastrous. Bossuet wanted 
Europe to fossilize at the level of the Council of Trent. The 
prosperity, rising civilization level and world dominion of the Prot- 
estant countries after Bossuet 's time refute his thesis. Obviously 
questions of proportion are involved rThe social type must be 
large enough and compact enough in structure to survive in the 
struggle of types; it must be diversified enough, that is, tolerant 
enough, to utilize all its social forces and increase their number. 
The western world today threatens to fly to pieces from the vio- 
lence of its antagonisms. It would gain by a little more unity 
which a hackneyed democratic formula, with its disastrous doc- 
trine of minority determinations, seems unable to supply. The 
eastern world would surely gain, as it is in fact gaining, from more 
diversity. v The great civilizing force in Asia at present is 


In dealing with the relations between social type and political 
formula, Mosca halts on the brink of a great research. The 
external manifestation of the existence of a type, at least of the 
larger types, will be the acceptance of a given formula. ,Does 
the type create the formula or the formula the type? Mosca 
answers quite soundly with a theory of interdependence: The 
type partly creates the formula in that the latter is usually a 
dogma put forward by some seer or prophet now Mahomet, now 
Rousseau, now Marx in response to certain "demands" of 
the given era. Once the formula exists and is accepted, it 
helps powerfully in molding the type by formulating maxims 
and precepts to which individuals more or less necessarily and 
successfully conform. The formula normally contains a large 
amount of nonsense mixed in with a certain small amount of 
verifiable truth. Observing the same facts Bentham considered 
in some detail the specific case where politicians talk the non- 
sense involved in the formula for the purpose of swaying mobs 
(scientifically, one should say, for the purpose of utilizing the 
social type for a given purpose). Making this difficulty the 
center of a research and centering all his interest upon it, Pareto 
evolved his epoch-making theory of residues and derivations. 


Mosca is one of the few (if any) political theorists to take level 
of civilization frankly and squarely as a criterion of evaluation 
In not a few passages in the Elements he seems to assume that 
the desirability of high levels of civilization is self-evident, and 
that would be a very venial departure from the objective stand- 
point that he strives to maintain in his work. As a matter of 
fact relatively few people care very much about level of civiliza- 
tion the great majority are interested in achieving some ideal 
communism, democracy, peace, "happiness," "spirituality," 
"the salutary captivity of the faith," to quote Monsignor Moreau 
regardless of the level at which civilization will find itself 
when those ideals are achieved or as a result of the effort to 
achieve them. The "nostalgic de la boue" is an organized 
human sentiment that snipes at the outposts of every free society 
when it is not slinking into the inner fortress under the guise of 
idealism and love of "higher things/' 


But subjective or metaphysical as this preference on Mosca's 
part may be, the concept of level of civilization nevertheless 
contributes, almost more than anything else, to maintaining the 
objective attitude in the Elements, It is a criterion that is 
definable to a high grade of approximation as multiplicity of 
activities; grade or quality of achievement in each; size and 
stability of social cohesion and, therefore, offensive and defensive 
power; standard of living and distribution of wealth; control of 
nature and utilization of that control; and so on so on even 
to the "higher things" themselves. (Why be so disheartened 
over the number of our airplanes, telephones or bathtubs, when 
in addition to them we are producing humanists, neo-Thomists 
and even saints in fair abundance?) 

The methodological advantages of the concept are enormous: 
and prime among them is the need which the concept creates, 
and the analytical method which it supplies, for viewing the 
given historical phenomenon or appraising the given proposal in 
the light of the total social picture. The literature of science 
and the literature of opinion suffer continually from their very 
virtues of specialization. In restricting the field of fact with 
which they deal they often develop unilateral methodologies 
which end by establishing arbitrary relations between facts. 
If we consider the Christian unity, so called, of the Middle Ages 
and linger on the metaphysical or logical implications of medieval 
political formulas, we may get a very distorted view of the impor- 
* ance of Christian unity or even of unity itself. Any considera- 
tion of the general level of civilization in the Middle Ages would 
certainly correct that view. So, for that school of writers which 
magnifies Greek thought and art as though those were manifesta- 
tions of a heavenly state which mankind has lost forever. I So, 
for those orientalists who propound the sublimities of the wisdom 
of the East without remembering that the eastern peoples have 
for ages been a sort of herring on which the sharks of the world, 
domestic and foreign, have feasted at their will and leisured 
So, also, for those who regard literature, the arts, and philosophy 
as the distinctive representatives of level of culture. It is certain 
that arts, letters and metaphysical thinking can flourish among 
limited numbers of individuals in civilizations of very low level. 
It is also certain that when any great proportion of a nation's 
energies are devoted to arts, letters a 1 " 1 ^ mAtfiiVhvQina. it nnlf-nral 


level will decline. To be sure, it is just as certain that no highly 
diversified and intensely cultivated civilization will fail to show 
eminence in those activities* 

Level of civilization is a dynamic, not a static, level, and in no 
civilization are all activities at the sameTlevel, or even at a level 
where they can automatically meet all the needs of the given 
historical moment. The ancient world needed more physical 
science than it possessed, if it was to perpetuate its achievements 
in the political and social fields. As Mosca points but, the great 
political upheaval at the end of the eighteenth century became 
more drastic through a lag in historical science. Napoleon's 
empire collapsed for the reason, among others, that transporta- 
tion was in arrears both of industry and of military science the 
steamboat and the railroad came a generation too late for the 
united Europe of which Napoleon dreamed. In our own time 
one may wonder whether the economic and social sciences will 
have attained a level to meet the great crises which our highly 
geared civilization periodically produces. One clings the more 
willingly to Mosca*s concept of level of civilization in that, on a 
subjective plane, it is optimistic as to man's future on earth. 
In spite of the tremendous forces of inner expansion and dis- 
gregation that are continually rocking the societies of our day, 
Mosca very soundly feels that, in view of the scientific and moral 
resources that our time has at its disposal, the man of the present 
is far better placed than any of his historical predecessors have 
been to deal with the destructive material, social and psycho- 
logical influences that have wrecked civilization so many times 
in the past and are threatening to wreck our own. 


Mosca's theory of the ruling class enters a third stage of 
development with the 198 edition of the Elementi, which was 
enlarged by a "second part" (chaps. XII to XVII of the present 
translation). This second part contains a tentative history of 
the theory of the ruling class. 1 It contains an outline of the 

1 The first clear formulation of the theory Mosca recognizes in Saint-Simon. 
However, consideration of stress, as proposed above (1), would probably 
minimize Saint-Simon's importance in this regard; whereas the role of Taine, 
especially in its direct bearing on Mosca's own theory, might have been enlarged 


rise of the modern state from the standpoint of types of riding 
classes and types of political organization. Interesting here 
especially is the essay on the rise of the bourgeoisie and the 
origins of the French Revolution. As for the classification of 
governments, which in Mosca's earlier works had been reduced 
to two types, the feudal and the bureaucratic, Mosca now tries 
out another order of distinctions autocratic and liberal prin- 
ciples, democratic and aristocratic tendencies. This discussion 
gives him occasion to add some interestingly objective reflections 
on class or social circulation in its bearing on the prosperity and 
decadence of nations. 

But the most significant portions of the "second part" are a 
clarification, and first of all in Mosca's own mind, of the import 
of the criticism of democracy that he had made in the past and 
his impassioned appeal for a restoration of the representative 
system in Europe. 

Mosca was on safe ground in asserting that great human masses 
can be organized and utilized for the attainment of specific pur- 
poses only by uniting them around some formula that will 
contain a large measure of illusion. He was also right in asserting 
that one element in that fact is the further fact that human beings 
more readily defer to abstract principles that seem to have an 
abiding validity than to the will of individual persons, which not 
seldom functions capriciously, may be valid only case by case, 
and, in any event, may shock the self-respect of the plain man 
who has a right to feel that he is being overridden by brute force. 
But in this regard all systems of political metaphysic are in the 
same boat: The "will of God," the "will of the people," "the 
sovereign will of the State," the "dictatorship of the proletariat," 
are one as mythical as the other. Perhaps of the lot, the least 
mythical is the will of the people, if by it one agree to mean that 
resultant of sentimental pressures, beliefs, habits, prejudices, 
temperaments (the general will of Rousseau or Maclver), on 
which common action can be based, and almost always is based, 
in tyrannies as well as in republics. In refuting a metaphysical 
thesis, one may be left in a metaphysical position oneself if one 
attaches any great importance to the refutation, on the assump- 
tion that political action must be based on formulas that are 
" true." Mosca is well aware of that. He repeatedly emphasizes 
the fact that the historic role of 


the scientific soundness of its dogmas. More directly to the point 
(he urges that statesmen should beware of trying to enforce all 
the apparent implications of metaphysical formulas. The 
Church would not last a week if it tried to live up to its doctrine 
of poverty) No democracy would endure if it followed the 
"will" of the ignorant peace-loving masses instead of the 
aggressive leadership of the enlightened few. So, he argues in 
the Teorica and again in the Elements, the mere fact that uni- 
versal suffrage follows from the premise of majority rule or the 
will of the people is in itself no recommendation for universal 
suffrage as a practical measure. Other considerations of a 
utilitarian character have to be introduced. Democratic 
metaphysics would require that the voting of budgetary expendi- 
ture be in the hands of the people's representatives, of Congress, 
let us say. In practice, it might easily be more satisfactory 
to have the budget in the hands of a responsible minister or 
president than in the hands of an irresponsible Congress. At 
least the sense of responsibility will be more active and effective 
in one conspicuous individual than in six hundred less con- 
spicuous individuals. 

But in spite of this very considerable consistency and objec- 
tivity, Mosca, in the Teorica and in Part I of the Elements, was 
undoubtedly swayed by certain prejudices of nationality, region 
and party and so lapsed into metaphysical errors. It is an error 
to argue that a limited suffrage is any sounder, theoretically, than, 
universal suffrage (an error arising in sentiments of liberal con- 
servatism). It is an error to argue that the history of a social 
system which is based on universal suffrage will necessarily 
follow the apparent logical implications of the theory of majority 
rule. Between the publication of the second and the third 
editions of the Elements the political equilibrium was upset in 
Europe in Russia, in Italy, in Germany and Austria. In none 
of those cases did the upset occur because of the application of 
universal suffrage and the growth of the demagoguery required 
for governing by universal suffrage. The Fascist and jjom- 
munist regimes have come into being and have governed in 
joyous indifference to universal suffrage. The upset in Italy 
in particular did not come either from socialism or from the 
church. It came from those public-spirited young men whom 
Mosca was inclined to laud for their attacks on socialism, and 


those young men were working on a myth, not of democracy, 
but of nationalism. Far more fortunate were Mosca's prophecies 
when he stuck close to his theory of social forces and foresaw, 
in Russia, all the anarchy and horror that would follow from the 
attempt to establish communism by force, and in Italy all the 
consequences of the establishment of a single absolute formula to 
which absolute adherence would be forcibly required -and the 
end is not yet. 

On the basis of the Teorica and the first form of the Elements 
it was easy to classify Mosca among those many Italian writers 
who have combatted the theory of democracy. The democratic 
system always had a stronger hold on the Italian head than on 
the Italian heart. Strong in all classes in Italy was the sense of 
social subordination (the sense of equality is more characteristic 
of France and the Protestant countries). Especially in rural 
Italy and on the Italian latifundia one still encounters many of 
the phenomena of class dependence that went with the older 
feudal world and, as Stendhal in his day perceived with a home- 
sick yearning for old times, were not without their charm.( The 
Italian intellectual and upper classes never embraced democracy 
wholeheartedly, j They never applied the theory of mass educa- 
tion with any peal conviction. One may therefore explain the 
antidemocratic intonation of Mosca's earlier works as partly 
a matter of fashion and partly a matter of youth. Democratic 
theory was generally accepted it was original, therefore, to 
attack it. Democracy was unpopular, especially in south Italy. 
One was therefore swimming with the current in overstressing 
the corruption and inefficiency of parliamentary politicians and in 
waving the menace of socialism in the face of those who were 
eager to strengthen popular education and extend the suffrage. 

All the same, the defense of the representative system in the 
second part of the Elements is not a mere case of the "jitters of 
'," nor is it exactly a palinode. It is a bona fide return to the 
implications of Mosca's theory of social forces, freed of meta- 
physical divagations. vA maturer contemplation of history" 
las convinced Mosca that, of all forms of political organization, 
,he representative system has shown itself capable of embracing 
:he largest social units at incredibly high levels of civilization; and 
:hat, as compared with competing systems today, it gives promise 
>f allowing freest play to increasing numbers of social forces and 


of providing more readily for that rapid social circulation which is 
essential to the stability of ruling classes and to reinforcing culture 
with tradition. / 


This translation edition of the Elements of Mosca was planned 
in 198 as part of an enterprise for making the monuments of 
Italian Machiavellian thought available to English-speaking 
scholars. Normally it should have appeared, and but for diffi- 
culties associated with the crisis of *29 would have appeared, in 
advance of my American edition of Pareto's Trattato. That 
order of publication would have preserved the chronological 
sequence of the two works in their native language and given a 
more satisfactory inception to the problems of relationship that 
very evidently arise between them. As it is, we find ourselves 
confronted today with polemics which are echoes of polemics of 
thirty years ago; and there is already a line of Italian or Italo- 
American writers who, somewhat tardily to tell the truth, dis- 
cover Mosca in order to diminish Pareto, while there are again a 
few who disparage Mosca for the greater glory of Pareto. As a 
matter of fact, a question of indebtedness first raised by Mosca 
(1902, 1907) has been attenuated to a question of "unrecognized 
priority" (Luigi Einaudi, 1934, Sereno, Megaro, Salvemini, 1988) ; 
but both those questions, from any scientific standpoint, can 
be regarded only as irrelevant. 1 

There is no dialectical or historical connection between Pareto's 
theory of the Ilite and Mosca's theory of the ruling class. On the 
dialectical side, Mosca's theory of the ruling class derives from a 
criticism of the doctrine of majority rule and is, as we have seen, 
a generalization of the method of Taine. Pareto's theory of 
the 61ite derives from a, study of the relations of distribution of 
wealth to class differentiations in society and aims specifically 
at a correction of Ammon. On the historical side, Pareto had 
not seen Mosca's Teorica as late as 1906 (see Manuale> 97, 8). 
The publication of his Cours (1896, 1897) was contemporaneous 
with that of Mosca's Elementi to a matter of days and the work 

1 For the literature of this quarrel see Renzo Sereno, "The Anti-Aristotelianism 
of Gaetno Mosca and Its Fate," Journal of Ethics, July 10S8, to which add 
Gaudence Megaro, Mussolini in the Making, Boston-New York, 1938, p. 116, 
and Gaetano Salvemini, review of Megaro, Nation, July, 1938. 


must therefore have been written some months before the 
EUmenti appeared. 1 Now the GOUTS contains the concept of 
the 61ite in virtually the form that it was to have in Chaps. XII 
and XIII of Pareto's TraUato (1916, 1923). As Pareto developed 
his theory in the course of the years (Application^ 1900, Sys- 
times, 1902), he began to cross positions of Mosca, without 
mention of Mosca's works. When he quotes Mosca it is in 
regard to other matter than the theory of the ruling class or the 
political formula. The reason for this silence is not certain it 
was certainly not malice. In hi sarcastic rejoinder to Mosca 
in the Manuale Pareto implies that Mosca's views were either 
obvious or else accounted for in earlier literature. That is an 
unhappy contention if one considers the point of stress alluded 
to above (1). Mosca was the one writer to have given the 
concept of the ruling class the importance that the concept of 
elite has in Pareto's Systdmes. On the other hand, the specific 
points of contact between Mosca's theories and Pareto's are of a 
minor significance and have no bearing on the originality or 
intrinsic interest of Pareto's use of the concept of the 61ite. The 
"moral" question, therefore, can easily be overworked, and has 
in fact been overworked; for any harm that may have been done 
to Mosca by Pareto's silence has long since been undone by 
historical criticism. 

With the questions of indebtedness and priority thus disposed 
of, we are in a position to consider the relations between the 
theories of Mosca and Pareto from another standpoint. It is a 
case of two authors who start with one same method, the histori- 
cal, and in the same objective spirit to prosecute two researches 
that run parallel to each other in many respects and pass many of 
the same landmarks. But similar as they are in method and 
spirit the two researches are vastly different in range and magni- 
tude. Pareto's research, based on an analysis of the social 
equilibrium, leads out to a comprehensive view of all society and 
results in a monument of gigantic architectural proportions the 

1 The Etertmtii* dated 1806, appeared " late in 1895. " Deposit of the copyright 
volume is noted in the fiollettino of Feb. $9, 1896. The preface of Vol. I of 
Pareto's Cours is dated January, 1896; Vol. II, dated 1897, is announced as 
received by the Journal des 6conomistes in its November number, 1896. There 
was therefore no interval of consequence between the writing of Vol. I and that 
of Vol. II. 


Trattato, which is a culture and a manner of living rather than a 
book. In such a research the problems of political organization 
that Mosca sets out to solve are mere details, yet in solving them 
Mosca has to take account of many of the facts that are basic in 
Pareto's larger structure; and he does take account of them in the 
form of observations, asides, intuitions, remarks that delight and 
astound for their shrewdness and profoundness. 

Mosca, for a few examples, perceives that the concept of cause, 
as it was used by the older historians and is still used by many 
moderns, is inadequate that the historical cause is often partly 
effect and the historical effect also partly cause. But with 
Mosca this perception remains a literary finesse. With Pareto 
it becomes a problem that requires and in a measure attains 
scientific formulation. And let there be no talk of priorities or 
plagiarisms, for Pareto could have derived the concept of inter- 
dependence from Spencer as well as from Mosca. It is very 
likely to occur to anyone who ponders history at all deeply and so 
is called upon to decide to what extent Rousseau, for instance, 
was a product or expression of his times and to what extent he 
influenced and shaped his times. So again Mosca sees that 
political formulas are invalid as "truth" but yet somehow deter- 
mine the exterior aspects, at least, of whole civilizations, of 
social types that are immensely populous. But that perception 
remains as a coloring of good-natured scepticism in the Elements. 
Pareto wrestles with it, instead, as a scientific problem, and the 
solution of it gives rise, on the one hand, to his theory of the role 
of the nonlogical in human society and human history, and, on the 
other, to his epoch-making classification of "derivations." 
And again let there be no talk of priorities or plagiarisms, for 
Pareto could just as well descend from Bentham, if he were not, 
in this as in every other respect, the child of his own genius. 
Mosca perceives that membership in the ruling class has a relation 
to human traits and he lingers, again in a mood of half-mirthful 
skepticism, on the traits that bring one "success in life." He 
fails to perceive, meantime, that that problem has an intimate 
bearing on the problem of the scientific classification of ruling 
classes toward which he was working. In Pareto the same 
perception leads to a masterly study of the belief that virtue 
has its rewards, and, further, to his now celebrated classification 
of ruling classes as "combinatienist" or "abstractionist" (pro- 


moters-believers). Mosca perceives that the manner in which 
ruling classes renew their membership has a vital significance for 
the prosperity of nations. That again is a shrewd intuition. 
In Pareto it becomes scientific hypothesis in a theory of social 
cycles, where social circulation is considered as one, merely, of the 
factors that determine social movement and where the problem 
of its relation to those other factors is formulated. 

All of this leads one to suspect that the real influence of Mosca 
on Pareto was of the type that one normally notes in the history 
of the sciences. By 1898, or thereabouts, Mosca's masterpiece 
was known to Pareto, and he could only be responsive to its 
various stresses. After the Elements, with its ruling class theory, 
Pareto was unlikely to overlook the fact that in the social 
equilibrium ruling-class traits far outweigh majority traits. 
After Mosca's stress on the humanitarian decadence of aris- 
tocracies it was unlikely that Pareto would overlook that same 
type of decadence. So for the doctrine of social crystallization 
or for the discussion of types of history, of the role of facts in 
scientific method, of the roles of force and propaganda in society, 
of theories of revolution and revolt. The anti-Paretans, in 
general, make a mistake in limiting the question of Pareto's 
indebtedness to Mosca to consideration of the concept of the 
ruling class. Really, and in the Trattato especially, Pareto 
holds in view all the major positions of Mosca, just as he holds in 
view the positions of dozens of other writers. The Elements are 
one of the foils that he uses to give a polemical development to 
some of his discussions. Characteristic here would be Pareto's 
criticism (Trattato, 566, note 3) of Taine's theory that ruling 
classes succumb because of neglecting their "duties" (a theory 
that Taine may have taken over from Tocqueville). One ele- 
ment in that painstaking refutation may easily have been the fact 
that Mosca takes over Taine's theory, ethical fallacies included, 
and makes it basic in his theory of the decline of ruling classes. 
In the same way one might compare Mosca's utilization of 
Salvian of Marseilles (on Roman morals) or Martin del Rio 
with the use that Pareto makes of those same authors. 


This translation edition of Mosca's Elements has aimed at a 
readable, organic presentation of Mosca's thought, quite apart 


from systematic literalism or any mechanical reproduction of the 
various devices by which Mosca adapted a text written in 1895 
to the movement of science and history and to his own intellectual 
evolution. The Italian edition of 1928 shows two books moving 
side by side, one as text, the other as notes, with a third book 
added as a tail that is sometimes inclined to wag the dog. This 
irregularity of composition has been smoothed out by incor- 
porating the notes in the text at points where they fit organically, 
by breaking up the once ponderous Chapter X into two, by 
numbering the chapters consecutively and by some slight 
rearrangement of material. For instance, the criticism of 
Comte and Spencer has been moved from Chapter VI, where it 
hung loose in space, to Chapter III where it logically belonged. 
That discussion, moreover, seemed to be an independent article 
written during Spencer's lifetime under the shadow of the master's 
overpowering prestige. It has been rewritten to conform with 
the spirit of the book as a whole and, it is hoped, with some little 
gain in clarity. 

A half-century's time has of course borne heavily upon the 
critical apparatus of the old Elements of 1895 and upon certain 
discussions which Mosca retained as late as 1923. Mosca him- 
self has insisted on deleting the study of the Roman question 
from the American edition. In the spirit of that revision the 
editor has further deleted from the notes a number of antiquated 
bibliographies, several debates dealing with socialist metaphysics 
as propounded in the nineties by Labriola and others, and in 
general all notes that seemed for one reason or another to have 
lost interest. That such suppressions have been relatively few 
bespeaks, in the editor's opinion, the classic soundness of Mosca's 
text as it first appeared in 1895 or as he left it in 1928. 

In Mosca's early days parliamentary eloquence in Italy still 
remembered its Ciceronian origins in a slow-moving periodic 
sentence that piled modifiers on modifiers, dependent clauses on 
dependent clause. Mosca was still close enough to that style 
to wield it with force, clarity and elegance. No one in America 
has been able to make it seem probable since Henry James or 
W. C. Brownell one might almost say, since Melville. Miss 
Kahn did wonders, in the editor's opinion, in transferring Mosca's 
period into English; but the editor finally decided to replace it 
with a more analytical paragraph, taking the risks of mistaking 


"slants" that such a method of translation often involves. As 
against the literalists, the editor will confess that he has always 
tried to live up to the three requisites in the translator that were 
once proclaimed by Joel Spingarn, the first being courage, the 
second courage, and the third courage. 

In this translation edition, Mosca's term "political class" is 
regularly rendered by the more usual English expression "ruling 
class/' on the basis of the permission extended in the Elements 
(chap. II, 1). It should never bfc forgotten, of course, that 
these two terms, which are interchangable in Mosca, function, 
subject to his definition of the political or ruling class, as the group 
of people who actually and directly participate in government or 
influence it. Mosca's "ruling class," therefore, covers a narrower 
field than Pareto's 61ite (the sum of outstanding talents) or the 
Marxian "ruling class" (the employer or property-holding class 
and its appendages, political or social). One might illustrate 
with the case of the American professor. Under some adminis- 
trations he is in Mosca's ruling class, as one can establish by 
giving an ear to the general clamor of disapproval. Under other 
administrations he is not in Mosca's ruling class and the clamor 
is just as great but elsewhere directed. In Marxian theory he 
would always be a member of the ruling class, even if ignored in 
town and hen pecked at home, and for Pareto always a member 
of the 61ite. 

The editor is indebted to Senator Mosca for reading proof of 
this English edition and to many friends for assistance at one 
time or another in the furtherance of this enterprise : to Giuseppe 
Prezzolini, for a first personal contact with Senator Mosca in 
19; to Irene di Robilant and Gaudence Megaro, for the per- 
formance of a number of personal errands to Senator Mosca in 
Italy; finally to Mario Einaudi, who first interested the present 
publishers in the Mosca enterprise and who also made a number 
of much-appreciated suggestions on the proofs. 

December, 1938. 




1. During centuries past it has many times occurred to inmKers 
to consider the hypothesis that the social phenomena unwinding 
before their gaze might not be mere products of chance, nor yet 
expressions of some supernatural, omnipotent will, but rather 
effects of constant psychological tendencies determining the 
behavior of the human masses. Even in Aristotle's early day 
an effort was made to discover the laws that govern the operation 
of such tendencies and their manner of functioning, and the 
science devoted to that purpose was called "politics." 

During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries many writers, 
particularly in Italy, applied themselves to "politics." 1 Yet 
they beginning with Machiavelli, the most famous of them all 
were less concerned with determining constant trends in human 
societies than with the arts by which an individual, or a class of 
individuals, might succeed in achieving supreme power in a 
given society and in thwarting the efforts of other individuals or 
groups to supplant them. 

Those are two different things, substantially, though there may 
be points of contact between them, as an analogy will serve to 
show. Political economy studies the constant laws or tendencies 
that govern the production and distribution of wealth in human 
societies; but that science is by no means the same as the art of 
amassing wealth and keeping it. A very competent economist 
may be incapable of making a fortune; and a banker or a business- 
man may acquire some understanding from knowledge of 
economic laws but does not need to master them, and may, in 
fact, get along very well in his business even in utter ignorance 
of them. 2 

1 Ferrari, Corso sugli scnttyti politici italiani. 

2 On the distinction between politics as the art of governing (Staatskunsf) and 
politics as the science of government (Staatstoitienschaft), see Holtzendorff, 



2. In our day the science founded by Aristotle has been sub- 
divided and specialized, so that we have not so much a science of 
politics as a group of political sciences. That is not all. Efforts 
have been made to synthesize and coordinate the results of such 
sciences, and this has given rise to the science of sociology. In 
interpreting legislation, or otherwise commenting upon public 
enactments, jurists and writers on public law are almost always 
carried on into investigations of the general tendencies that have 
inspired legislation. Historians, too, in telling the story of human 
vicissitudes, have frequently sought to deduce from a study of 
historical events the laws that regulate and determine them. 
That was the case with Polybius and Tacitus, among the ancients, 
with Guicciardini in the sixteenth century, with Macaulay and 
Taine in the century just past. Philosophers, theologians, 
jurists all thinkers, in short, who, directly or indirectly, have 
written with a view to improving human society and have, 
therefore, examined the laws that regulate its organization 
may be considered, under one aspect or another, to have been 
dealing with problems of political science. It turns out that a 
good half of the field of human thought, an immense portion of 
the intellectual effort that man has devoted to delving into his 
past, probing his future, analyzing his own moral and social 
nature, may be looked upon as devoted to political science. 

Among the political or social sciences one branch, so far, has 
attained such scientific maturity that through the abundance and 
the accuracy of its results it has left all the others far behind. 
We are thinking of political economy. 

Toward the end of the eighteenth century a number of men of 
great ability segregated the phenomena involved in the produc- 
tion and distribution of wealth from the mass of other social 
phenomena and, considering them apart from other data, suc- 
ceeded in determining many of the constant psychological laws 
or tendencies that they obey. This method of separating 
economic phenomena from other aspects of social activity, along 
with the habit that has grown up of considering them as inde- 
pendent of the other phenomena that affect the organization of 
political institutions, undoubtedly accounts for the rapid progress 
that political economy has made; but at the same time it may be 

Prinmpien der Politik, chaps. I-IL We touch on this matter again below, 
chap. VIII, 1. 


held chiefly responsible for the fact that certain postulates of the 
science of economics are still open to controversy. If, therefore, 
political economy could manage to coordinate its own obser- 
vations with what has been learned of other phases of human 
psychology, it might be able to make further and perhaps decisive 

During the last thirty or forty years there has been a tendency 
to explain all political events in human history on the basis of 
economic considerations. In our opinion, this point of view is too 
one-sided and too exclusive. There are social and political 
phenomena (for example, the rise and spread of the great reli- 
gions, the renascence of certain ancient nationalities, the estab- 
lishment of certain powerful military monarchies) which cannot 
be explained solely by variations in the distribution of wealth, or 
by the conflict between capital and labor or between fixed and 
circulating capital. 

However, the tendencies that regulate the organization of 
political authority cannot be studied without taking into account 
the results that political economy, a sister science of more pre- 
cocious growth, has already obtained. To study the tendencies 
mentioned is the aim of the present work. We call this study 
"political science." We have chosen that designation because 
it was the first to be used in the history of human thought, 
because it has not yet fallen into disuse and because the term 
"sociology," which many writers have adopted since the day 
of Auguste Comte, still has no precise and sharply defined 
meaning (in common usage it covers all the social sciences, among 
them economics and criminology, rather than the science 
directly concerned with the study of the phenomena that are 
more specially and properly designated as "political"). 1 

3. A science is always built up on a system of observations 
which have been made with particular care and by appropriate 
methods on a given order of phenomena and which have been so 
coordinated as to disclose incontrovertible truths which would 
not have been discovered by the ordinary observation of the 
plain man. 

1 The term "political science" has been used, among other writers, by Holtzen- 
dorff, Bluntschli, Donnat, Scolari, Brougham, Sheldon Amos, De Parieu and 


The mathematical sciences furnish the simplest and readiest 
illustration of the development of the truly scientific procedure. 
In mathematics the axiom is the fruit of an observation that is 
accessible to everybody, and its truth is apparent even to the eyes 
of the plain man. Stating a number of axioms and coordinating 
them, we get proofs for the simpler theorems. Then, still 
further coordinating the truths derived from such theorems with 
the truths of the axioms, we get proofs for new and more difficult 
theorems, the truth of which could be neither guessed nor proved 
by any one untrained in the mathematical sciences. The pro- 
cedure in physics and the other natural sciences is quite the 
same, but in them the method begins to be complicated by new 
elements. To coordinate a number of simple observations often 
will not suffice to provide a demonstration of a truth that we may 
call "composite" in other words, not apparent at first glance. 
In the majority of cases something corresponding to the axiom 
in mathematics is obtained only through experiment or pro- 
longed observation, both of which have their value when they 
are conducted by special and accurate methods and by individ- 
uals who have been properly trained in such methods. In the 
early days of the various sciences the sound procedure was almost 
always found as the result of lucky hypotheses, which were 
eventually substantiated by experiments and observations of 
fact and which in their turn explained many other observations, 
many other facts. A long period of empiricism, of imperfect or 
erroneous methods of observation, of mistaken theories that have 
hampered the useful coordination of data on individual phenom- 
ena, has almost always preceded the strictly scientific period in 
the given science. So for many centuries astronomy and 
chemistry floundered about in the errors and follies of astrology 
and alchemy. Only after human minds had long labored over 
given orders of phenomena did a wealth of accumulated data, 
better methods, better material instruments of observation, and 
the insight and unflagging patience of mighty intellects finally 
succeed in producing those fortunate hypotheses that have made 
real science possible. 

The mere use of observation and experience within a given 
order of phenomena does not of itself assure truly scientific 
results. Francis Bacon was mistaken as to the absolute capacity 
of the experimental method for discovering scientific truth, 


and many thinkers and writers in our day are harooqpg ro$ same 
illusion. As is well known, Bacon compared the j^kperittiental 
method, which for that matter had been in use long before his 
day, to a compass, which will allow the hand unpractised in 
drawing to trace perfect circles in other words, to obtain accu- 
rate scientific results. 1 As a matter of fact, if observation and 
experience are to yield sound results the condition that we have 
specified above are essential. Ill-used, and? ivith mistaken 
scientific procedures, they lead to false discoveries, or may even 
lend a semblance of plausibility to downright nonsense. After 
all, astrology and alchemy wei*e based on observation and 
experience, real or presumed; but the method of observation, or 
rather the point of view from which observations were conducted 
and coordinated, was profoundly mistaken. In his Disqui- 
sitiones magicae the notorious Martin Del Rio thought that he 
was relying on observations of fact in drawing his distinctions 
between love magic, hate magic and sleep-inducing magic and in 
revealing the wiles and ways of witches and sorcerers. Indeed 
he intended that his observations should help people to detect 
witches and sorcerers and guard against them. So economists 
before the day of Adam Smith thought that they were resting on 
observations of fact when they held that the wealth of a nation 
lay solely in its money and in the products of its soil; and Don 
Ferrante, the typical scientist of the seventeenth century, so 
effectively sketched by Manzoni, 2 was arguing from facts and 
experiences that were universally accepted in his time when he 
showed, by a reasoning which was faultlessly logical and positive 
as far as appearance went, that the bubonic plague could not 
possibly be contagious. He reasoned as follows: In rerum 
natura there is nothing but substance and accident. Contagion 
cannot be an accident because an accident cannot pass from one 
body to another. It cannot be a substance because substances 
are terreous, igneous, aqueous and aeriform. If contagion were 
a terreous substance, it would be visible; if aqueous, it would be 

1 Macaulay, "Lord Bacon*' in Critical and Historical Essays, vol. II, p. 254 
[The passage reads: "His philosophy resembled a compass or a rule which 
equalizes all hands, and enables the most unpractised person to draw a more 
correct circle or line than the best draftsmen can produce without such aid." 
And see Novum organon, Preface and I, 122.] 

2 / promessi sposi, chap. XXXVII. 


wet; if igneous, it would burn; if aeriform, it would soar aloft 
to its propef sphere. 

4, Even today political science has not yet entered upon its 
truly scientific period. Though a scholar may learn from it 
many things that escape the perception of the plain man, it does 
not seem to offer any body of incontrovertible truths that are 
accepted by all who are versed in its discipline, and much less to 
have acquired, so far, a trustworthy and universally accepted 
method of research. The causes of this situation are multiple, 
and for the present we cannot go into them. We may say 
simply that such causes are to be sought not so much in a lack of 
talent in the men who have pondered the subject of politics as in 
the great complexity of the phenomena involved in that subject 
and, especially, in the circumstance that, down to a few decades 
ago, it was virtually impossible to get accurate and complete 
information about the facts on which we are obliged to depend in 
trying to discover the constant laws or tendencies that determine 
the political organization of human societies. 

However fragmentary or defective we may consider the various 
methods or systems of ideas that have so far been brought to bear 
upon the field of political science, it is none the less our duty to 
make a rapid survey of them. Some of them have been, as 
they are still, little more than philosophical, theological or 
rational justifications of certain types of political organization 
which have for centuries played, and in some cases are still 
playing, a significant role in human history. As we shall 
presently see, one of the most constant of human tendencies is the 
tendency to justify an existing form of government by some 
rational theory or some supernatural belief. We have accord- 
ingly had a so-called political science at the service of societies in 
which belief in the supernatural still holds sway over the minds of 
men and in which, therefore, the exercise of political power finds 
its explanation in the will of God (or of the gods) ; and we have 
had, as we still have, another political science which justifies 
that power by representing it to be a free and spontaneous 
expression of the will of the people, or of the majority of the 
individuals composing the given society. 

Among all the various systems and methods of political obser- 
vation, we must concern ourselves more especially with two, 


which are more objective and universal in character than the 
others and which have designedly set out to discover the laws 
that explain the existence of all the various forms of government 
that appear in the world. The first of these two methods makes 
the political differentiation of the various societies dependent 
upon variations in external environment, and more particularly 
in climate; the other correlates it primarily with the physical, 
and therefore psychological, differences between the various 
races of men. The first method lays primary stress on the 
criterion of physical environment; the other, upon the eth- 
nological or somatic criterion. The two methods occupy such 
important places in the history of science and in contemporary 
science and are, as far as appearances go, so positive and experi- 
mental in character, that we cannot be excused from going into 
the matter of their actual scientific value, 

5. From the days of Herodotus and Hippocrates down to 
the present century an enormous number of writers have assumed 
that climate has an influence on social phenomena in general and 
on political phenomena in particular. Many have tried to 
demonstrate that influence and have based whole scientific 
systems upon it. In the forefront among these stands Montes- 
quieu, who insists most emphatically upon the preponderant 
influence of climate on the moral and political systems of nations. 
"The closer one gets to the countries of the south," he writes, 1 
"the farther one seems to get from morality itself"; and he 
declares 2 that liberty is incompatible with warm countries and 
never flourishes where the orange grows. Other writers concede 
that civilization may have been born in the warm countries 
but nevertheless maintain that its center of gravity has continu- 
ously crept northward and that the countries that are best 
organized politically today are located in the north. 8 

Now to begin with, the climate of a country is not entirely a 
matter of latitude but depends also on such factors as elevation 
above sea level, exposure, prevailing winds, and so on. Not all 
of the physical environment, moreover, is dependent on climate, 

1 Esprit des lots, book XIV, chap. 2. 
* Ibid., book XVII 

8 Mougeolle, Statique des civilisations and Les probtemes de I'histoire; and see 
Bluntschli, Pditik (da Wissenschqft. 


in other words, on variations in temperature and rainfall. 
Other circumstances figure in it for example, the greater or 
lesser population that a region may have, and consequently the 
degree of development its agriculture has attained and the kind 
of crops that are most commonly in use. The inhabitants of a 
sparsely populated and therefore pastoral or wooded territory 
live in a physical environment that is wholly different from that 
of people who inhabit a densely populated and therefore inten- 
sively cultivated territory. 

It is undeniable, furthermore, that the influence that climate 
may have on the life of a people as a whole and on its political 
organization in particular must steadily diminish with the 
growth of its civilization. The vegetable kingdom is undoubtedly 
most at the mercy of atomospheric and telluric conditions in 
that plants, unless they are raised in hothouses, are almost 
wholly destitute of means of reaction or defense against external 
influences. Animals are somewhat better off, since self-defense 
and reaction are not altogether impossible for them. Primitive or 
even savage man is still better situated, for his means of defense are 
at least superior to those of the animals. Best situated of all is 
civilized man. He is so rich in resources that he feels but scant 
effects from changes in climate and he is perfecting his resources 
and increasing their number from day to day. 

Granting that premise, the following conception seems to us 
obvious and acceptable: that the first great civilizations arose in 
spots where nature offered the greatest and most numerous 
facilities, or the fewest and least serious obstacles; that, therefore, 
they flourished in broad valleys that were fairly mild in climate 
and well enough watered to permit easy cultivation of some sort 
of grain. A fair density of population is a condition that is 
almost indispensable to the rise of a civilization. Civilization is 
not possible where a hundred human beings are scattered over a 
thousand square miles of land. But if human beings are to live 
in large numbers in a relatively small area (say at least ten or 
twenty inhabitants per square mile), a grain culture is essential. 
In fact, we find that the rise of Chinese civilization was con- 
temporaneous with, or subsequent to, the cultivation of rice. 
The Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations were based on 
wheat, barley and millet, and the aboriginal American civili- 
zations on maize. In a few tropical countries certain fruits, such 


as the banana, or farinaceous roots such as manioc, may have 
taken the place of cereals. 

This induction is corroborated by history, which shows 
early civilizations in the valleys of the Nile, the Euphrates, the 
Ganges, and the Yellow River, and on the Anahuac plateau lands 
which present all the physical conditions that we have mentioned. 
But once man has succeeded in so marshaling his forces as to 
tame nature in some exceptionally favorable spot, he can go on to 
master her in other places where she is more recalcitrant. In 
our day with the exception "of the polar regions, a few spots, 
possibly, about the equator, and certain areas where excessive 
aridness or the presence of malaria creates peculiarly unfavorable 
conditions all the lands of the earth are, or can be made, capable 
of harboring civilized populations. 

6. The principle that civilization always spreads from south 
to north, or rather from warm to cold areas, we regard as one of 
those oversimple formulas which attempt to explain extremely 
complicated phenomena by a single cause. It is based on a mere 
fragment of history on the history of a single period in European 
civilization, and a history superficially studied at that. If one 
were to use this method in examining a map a map of northern 
Germany, or of Siberia, let us say ;one might deduce a law that 
all rivers flow from south to north, because that is true of those 
countries, which have highlands in the south and seas to the 
north. The rule might be reversed if one were studying southern 
Russia, while South America might furnish still a third law, 
namely, that rivers flow from west to east. The truth is that, 
with no reference whatever to latitude or longitude, rivers 
flow from high to low, from mountains or plateaus to seas or 
lakes. If one were to call lands offering the lesser resistance 
"lower" lands, one might say that the law that governs the 
expansion of civilization is the very same. The civilizing current 
flows indifferently from south to north and from north to south, 
but it flows by preference in the direction in which it encounters 
the least natural and social resistance and by social resistance 
we mean the impact of other original civilizations developing in 
inverse directions. 

Chinese civilization arose in the central provinces of the 
empire. It was shut in on the north by the barren and frigid 


plateaus of central Asia, while on the south it could flow not 
only into the southern provinces of China proper but into Indo- 
China as well. Hindu civilization, encountering the almost 
insurmountable chain of the Himalayas on the north, pressed 
from north to south, from northern India into the Deccan, and 
thence on to Ceylon and Java. Egyptian civilization crept 
northward until it met the powerful confederation of the Hittites, 
in other words the impact of another civilization, in northern 
Syria. On the other hand, it was in a position to expand more 
extensively to the south, and it in fact ascended the Nile from 
Memphis to Thebes and from Thebes to Mero, It now seems 
certain that the earliest dynasties flourished at Tanis and 
Memphis, that Thebes came into prominence only after the 
invasion of the Shepherd kings and that Ethiopia was civilized 
by the Egyptians and did not become an independent realm until 
a very late date. 

Heir to the ancient cultures of Mesopotamia, Persian civili- 
zation spread from east to west in the direction in which it 
encountered fewest natural obstacles until it collided with 
Greek civilization. Greco-Roman civilization embraced the 
whole basin of the Mediterranean. Arrested to the south by 
impassable deserts and toward the east by Oriental civilization 
in the form of the Parthian empire and then of the Persian, it 
spread northward until it came to the swamps and forests, at 
the time almost impassable, of northern Germany and Scotland. 
Mohammedan civilization was barred on the south by sea and 
desert and so was impelled towards the northwest. During the 
Middle Ages, European civilization was checked on the south by 
Arab civilization, which wrested the entire southern portion of 
the Mediterranean basin from it. It moved northward, accord- 
ingly, absorbing Scotland, northern Germany, Scandinavia and 
Poland. Today the civilization of Europe is stretching out in all 
directions, wherever there are sparsely populated lands that are 
easy to colonize, or decadent nations that are waiting for a 

The center of a civilization, as the latter flows in one direction 
or another, seems to move in Conformity with the law we have 
just stated. The countries that lie on the frontiers of a type of 
human civilization are not as a rule the ones that are most 
advanced in it. When European civilization embraced the 


whole Mediterranean basin, Greece proper and southern Italy 
were the hub of the civilized world, and they were the most 
vigorous, the most cultured, the most prosperous countries in it. 
When they became the most advanced outposts of civilization 
facing the Mohammedan world, they declined. In a given 
country, conditions being equal, the most civilized and prosperous 
district seems almost always to be the one that has the readiest 
means of communication with the lands that constitute the hearth, 
or radiation center, of the civilization to which the country itself 
belongs. As long as Sicily was part of the Hellenic world, which 
had its center to the east of Sicily, the most prosperous and highly 
civilized section of the island was the east coast. 1 During the 
Arab period western Sicily was the most cultured, prosperous and 
thickly populated, being closest to Africa, whence Mohammedan 
civilization was radiating. 2 Today the greatest population and 
wealth are concentrated on the north coast of the island, facing 
northern Europe. 

7. It is also, in our opinion, a very rash hypothesis to ascribe 
.a superior morality to the peoples of the north as compared with 
the peoples of the south. Morality results from such complex 
qualities of mind and spirit, and the external circumstances 
within which human life unfolds play such a large part in positive 
or negative expressions of morality, that to determine whether a 
single individual is potentially more moral than another is in 
itself not a little difficult. Difficult indeed is that same judgment 
with respect to two societies, two human masses composed of 
many individuals. Statistical data on this subject cannot tell 
everything often they fail even to tell enough. Personal 
impressions are almost always too subjective on the whole they 
are less trustworthy than statistics. Generally speaking, it is 
the unfamiliar form of immorality that makes the greater 
impression, and so we are prone to judge people of another 
country as worse than people of our own. Moreover, we are com- 
monly given to considering as less moral than others the country 
in which we came first or most thoroughly to know and appraise 
certain vices and frailties which, really, are common to all men. 

1 Beloch, "La popolazione della Sicilia antica" and see: Die Bevdlkerung 
der Griechisch-Romischcn Welt, chap. VII, pp. 261-305. 
1 Amari, Storia del Musulmani in Sicilia. 


The vice most commonly attributed to southerners is lust, 
whereas northerners are more generally charged with drunken- 
ness. And yet it may be observed that Congo negroes become 
more disgracefully drunk than Russian peasants or Swedish 
laborers; and as for lust, it appears that folkways and the type 
of social organization that each people creates for itself as the 
result of a sequence of historical circumstances exert a prof ounder 
influence upon it than does climate. Before his conversion to 
Christianity, St. Vladimir (the czar who was canonized and 
became the patron saint of all the Russias) had more women in 
his harem than the caliph Harun-al-Rashid ever did. Ivan the 
Terrible emulated and outstripped in cruelty and lust Nero, 
Heliogabalus and the bloodiest sultans of the East. In our day 
there is perhaps more prostitution in London, Paris and Vienna 
than there ever was in ancient Babylon and Delhi. In present- 
day Europe, Germany leads in the number of sex crimes, and 
then follow, in descending order, Belgium, France, Austria and 
Hungary. Italy stands near the bottom of the list, and Spain 
comes last of all. 1 

Many criminologists assume a predominance of crimes of 
violence, or offenses against the person, in the south, whereas they 
credit the north with a larger quota of offenses against property. 2 
But Tarde and Colajanni have shown conclusively that such rela- 
tions as have been sought between climate and type of crime are 
rather to be ascribed to differences in social conditions such as 
may be encountered in various districts in a given country. 3 It is 
true that in the United States, Prance and Italy crimes of violence 
regularly prevail in the south, while the northern Darts of those 
countries show a relatively higher frequency of crimes against 
property. But as Tarde himself well points out, in all those 
countries the southern districts are poorer in facilities of com- 
munication, are farther removed from the great industrial cities 
and from the centers of present-day civilization, than are the 
northern regions; and it is to be expected that violent forms of 
crime should predominate, irrespective of climate, in less 
advanced regions, and that crimes requiring skill and shrewdness 
should be more common in better educated ones. This, in fact, 

* Colajanni, La swmlogia criminate, vol. II, chap, 7. 

1 Maury, Lombroso, Fern, Puglia. 

8 Tarde, La Criminalitt comparSe, chap. IV. 


would seem to be the most adequate explanation of the phenome- 
non. The French departments that show the highest figures for 
crimes of violence (Ardeche and Lozere, in the eastern Pyrenees) 
lie, to be sure, in the south of Prance, but they are relatively cold 
regions because of the mountainous nature of the country. In 
Italy the Basilicata furnishes one of the highest percentages of 
crimes of violence, but it is a mountainous district and relatively 
cold the peaks of the Matese, the Gargano and the Sila are snow- 
covered for most of the year as are the highlands that bear certain 
Sicilian towns notorious for enterprises involving blood and 
brigandage. 1 

8. Going on to the strictly political aspect of the question, we 
may note that before we can decide whether southerners are 
unfitted for liberty we must come to an understanding as to 
the exact meaning of the term "liberty." If we assume that 
the freest country is the country where the rights of the governed 
are best protected against arbitrary caprice and tyranny on the 
part of rulers, we must agree that political institutions that are 
regarded as superior from that point of view have flourished both 
in cold countries and in very temperate countries, such as Greece 
and Rome. Vice versa, systems of government based on the 
arbitrary will of rulers may be found in such very cold countries 
as Russia. The constitutional form of government had no more 
vigorous beginnings in foggy England than it had in Aragon, 
Castile and Sicily. If Montesquieu had extended his travels a 
little farther south he would have found, in Sicily, a political 
order under which, even in his day, the royal authority was much 
more limited than it was in France. 2 Granting that in our time 
the various representative systems may be regarded as the least 
imperfect forms of government, we find them in force in northern 
and southern Europe equally, and, outside of Europe, they 
probably function as well in chilly Canada as they do at the Cape 
of Good Hope, where the climate, if not actually hot, is certainly 
very mild. 

The reason why southerners should be less well fitted for free 
and enlightened forms of government can only be this: that they 

1 For other examples, see Colajanni, La sodologia criminale, vol. II, chap. 7. 

2 On the importance and extensive development of the old Sicilian constitution 
see the two classic treatises by Gregorio, Introduzione allo studio del diritto 


are possessed of less physical, and especially less moral and 
intellectual, vitality. It is, in fact, very commonly believed 
that in view of a superior energy, which expresses itself in indus- 
triousness, in war, in learning, northerners are destined always to 
be conquerors of the ineffectual southerners. But that view is 
even more superficial and contrary to fact than the ones we have 
just refuted. Actually, civilizations which arose and developed 
in hot or very mild climates have left behind them monuments 
that attest an advanced culture and an untold capacity for labor 
which are all the more astonishing in that the peoples in question 
did not have at their disposal the machines that tpday multiply 
man's resources a hundredfold. The capacity of a people for 
hard work seems to depend not so much on climate as on habits 
that are in large part determined by the vicissitudes of its history. 
In general, habits of application and industry are shown by 
peoples of very ancient civilization who have long since attained 
the agricultural level and have, moreover, long enjoyed tolerable 
political systems that assure the working man of at least some 
fraction of the fruits of his toil. On the other hand, peoples that 
have relapsed into a partial barbarism, or barbarous and semi- 
barbarous peoples that are accustomed to live to some extent by 
war and thieving, are usually indolent and sluggish apart from 
activities relating to fighting or hunting. In just such terms did 
Tacitus describe the ancient Germans. In our time the North 
American Indians and the Kalmuks of Asia are exceedingly lazy, 
though the former once lived, as the latter still live, in very cold 
countries. The Chinese of the southern provinces are a hard- 
working people, and the Egyptian fellah can toil with the utmost 
endurance. The absence of large-scale industry in the southern- 
most parts of Europe has created and continues to sustain the 
impression that their inhabitants are indolent workers, but any- 
one who knows these peoples well knows how little, on the whole, 
that reputation is deserved. Sicily may be taken as an example. 
That island, with an area of about 20,000 square miles, supports a 
population of over four million in other words, about 180 
people per square mile. There are no large industries and no 
great abundance of capital. The soil, largely mountainous, is 
rich in sunshine but poor in water. If a population is to live 
with any degree of comfort at all under such conditions, the soil 
must be tilled with untiring effort and with a certain amount of 
technical proficiency. 


If we assume that military superiority is a test of greater 
energy, it is hard indeed to decide whether northerners have 
defeated and conquered southerners more often than southerners 
have defeated and conquered northerners. The Egyptians were 
southerners, and in their heyday they swept in triumph over 
Asia as far as the mountains of Armenia. The Assyrian warriors 
lived in the mildest of climates, yet, however much we may 
deplore their brutality, we cannot but marvel at their indomi- 
table energy in war. The Greeks were southerners, but they 
managed to conquer all western Asia, and by force of arms, 
colonization, commerce and intellectual superiority they Hellen- 
ized the entire eastern portion of the Mediterranean basin and 
a considerable part of the basin of the Black Sea. The Romans, 
too, were southerners, and their legions overran the plains of 
Dacia, penetrated the inaccessible forests of Germany, and 
pursued the Picts and Caledonians into the deepest recesses of 
their bleak, wild mountains. The Italians of the Middle Ages 
were southerners, and they wrought miracles in war, industry and 
commerce. Southerners, too, were the Spaniards of the six- 
teenth century, those glamorous conquistadores who in less than 
half a century explored, overran and conquered most of the 
Americas. The Franco-Norman followers of William the 
Conqueror were southerners, as compared with the English, yet 
in a few years' time they were able almost entirely to dispossess 
the inhabitants of southern Great Britain and to drive the 
Angles, at the point of the sword, back to the old Roman 
wall. The Arabs were southerners in an absolute sense, yet 
in less than a century they imposed their conquest, and with 
their conquest their language, their religion and their civiliza- 
tion, upon as generous a portion of the world as the modern 
Anglo-Saxons have conquered and colonized in the course of 
many centuries. 

0. Differences in social organization depending on land 
configuration or topography may be considered as secondary to 
those due to variations in climate, though they may perhaps be 
more important. Whether a country is more or less level or more 
or less mountainous, whether it is situated on the great highways 
of communication or remote from them, are factors that exert a 
far greater influence on its history than a few degrees more or less 
of mean temperature. The importance "of such factors must not 


be exaggerated, however, to the point of making an inexorable 
law of them. Topographical features that are favorable under 
certain historical conditions may become very unfavorable under 
others, and vice versa. When all Europe was still in the Bronze 
and the early Iron Age, Greece found herself in an amazingly 
favorable situation for achieving leadership in her corner of the 
world, since she was better placed than any other country for 
absorbing infiltrations from Egyptian and Asiatic civilizations. 
But in modern times, down to the cutting of the isthmus of Suez, 
Greece was one of the least favorably situated of the countries of 
Europe, since she lay remote from the center of European culture 
and from the great highways of transatlantic and East Indian 

Another widespread opinion in such matters is that mountain- 
eers are usually superior to lowlanders and are destined almost 
always to conquer them. Certainly more can be said for that 
theory than for the ascription of marked superiority to peoples 
of the north. It may be questionable whether a cold climate is 
more salubrious than a temperate or warm climate, but it seems 
to be established that highlands are almost always more healthful 
than lowlands and better health implies stronger physical 
constitution and therefore greater energy. But great energy is 
not always combined with strength of social structure, upon 
which, after all, decision as to whether a people is to rule or to be 
ruled depends. Now a sound political organism that unites and 
directs the energies of great masses of people arises and maintains 
itself more readily on plains than in mountainous countries. In 
fact we see, in Turkey and the Near East, that though the 
Circassian, Kurdish and Albanian mountaineers have frequently 
attained importance as individuals, and though bands of them 
in the service of bordering countries have often become forces to 
be reckoned with and feared, yet Albania, Circassia and Kurdi- 
stan have never, in historic times, become nuclei of great inde- 
pendent empires. On the contrary, they have always been drawn 
into the orbits of the great political organisms that touched 
their borders. 1 The Swiss, too, have had great importance as 
individuals and as corps of mercenaries, but Switzerland as 

1 Saladin was a Kurd. Mehemet Ali, the first khedive of Egypt, was an 
Albanian. The famous Mameluke beys* who ruled in Egypt for many centuries, 
were Circassians. 


a nation has never weighed perceptibly in the political scales of 

History shows, in general, that if intrepid bands of mountain- 
eers have often devastated, rather than conquered, lowlands, still 
more often have the organized armies of lowlanders crushed the 
disconnected efforts of highlanders and reduced them to per- 
manent submission. The Romans conquered the Samnites, 
while the Samnites were able to defeat the Romans only in an 
occasional battle. Bands of the Scottish highlanders did now 
and then overrun northern England and ravage it, but the low- 
land English more often defeated mountainous Scotland and 
ended by conquering it, taming its warlike impulses and assimilat- 
ing it completely. For that matter, lowland peoples are not 
necessarily destitute of energy, or even poorly endowed with it. 
One has only to think of the Dutch, the North Germans, the 
Russians, the English, who are in large part inhabitants of very 
low countries. 

10. The method that ascribes the degree of progress and 
civilization that a nation has attained and the type of political 
organization that it has adopted to the race to which it belongs 
is much less ancient than the method which views climate as the 
arbiter of everything. That could hardly be otherwise. Anthro- 
pology and comparative philology, upon which the scientific 
classification of the races of mankind is based, are very recent 
sciences (Broca and Grimm lived in the nineteenth century), 
whereas approximative information as to climatic differences was 
available in the early day of Herodotus. However, newcomer as 
it may have been, the ethnological trend in the social sciences 
has been correspondingly aggressive; and the last decades of the 
nineteenth century witnessed an attempt to interpret all human 
history on the basis of racial differences and racial influences. 1 
A distinction was drawn between superior races and inferior 
races, the former being credited with civilization, morality and a 
capacity for organizing themselves into great political units, 
while for the latter was reserved the harsh but inevitable lot 
either of vanishing before the encroachment of the higher races 
or of being conquered and civilized by them. At the most it was 

1 See, among others, Qua tref ages, Gumplowicz, Lapouge and Hellwald. 
Gobineau's Essai sur I'MgalitS des races humaines appeared in 


granted that they might go on living in independence, but 
without ever attaining the degree of culture and the flawless 
social and political organization that were proper to peoples of the 
privileged stocks. 

Renan wrote that spiritual poetry, faith, liberty, honor, self- 
sacrifice appeared in the world only with the advent of the two 
great races which, in a sense, had fashioned humanity, the 
Aryan and the Semitic. 1 For Gobineau the central point qf 
history is always located where the purest, strongest, most 
intelligent white group abides. Lapouge pushes the same 
doctrine to its extremest consequences. In his opinion not only 
is the race that is truly moral, truly superior in all things, the 
Aryan, but within the Aryan race itself those individuals excel 
who have kept the Aryan type in pule and uncontaminated 
forms those who are tall, blond and dolichocephalic. Yet even 
among the nations that pass as Ipdo-Germanic, individuals of this 
type constitute only a small minority scattered about among a 
short, dark, brachycephalic majority. The true Aryans, there- 
fore, are fairly numerous in England and North America. They 
begin to dwindle in numbers in Germany, being encountered 
there only in the upper classes. They are very rare in France and 
become a virtually unknown commodity in the countries of 
southern Europe. Morselli espouses Lapouge's thesis, main- 
taining the superiority of blond strains over dark, because the 
most highly civilized nations are those in which blonds prevail in 
numbers and within any given country the most highly civilized 
region or province is always the one where blonds are most 
numerous. 2 

Along with this school which maintains the innate and inevita- 
ble superiority of certain races there is another, which, without 
being in absolute opposition to it, is more directly linked with 
Darwin's theories, so widely applied to the social sciences during 
the second half of the past century. Spencer is the best-known 
writer of this second school, which has many followers. Without 

1 Vie de Jfous, chap. 1. In other works Renan speaks of the Semites in far 
from flattering terms. 

* Granting all this for the sake of argument, it would still be necessary to 
show that in the past the dark races had never been more highly civilized or more 
powerful than the fair. If at any time they were, the present superiority of 
nations and provinces where fair hair is the commoner could well be due to other 


maintaining the inevitable and unbroken superiority of any one 
race over others, these scholars believe that all social progress 
has come about, and is still being made, by a process of organic, or 
superorganic, evolution, so-called. A continuous struggle, the 
struggle for existence, is always going on within every society. As 
a result, the stronger and better individuals, those who are best 
adapted to their environment, survive the weaker and less well 
adapted and propagate their kind in preference to the latter, 
passing on to their descendants as an inborn heritage the qualities, 
acquired by a slow process of education, which won them their 
victory. The same struggle goes on between societies themselves, 
and by it the more soundly constituted societies, those composed 
of the stronger individuals, conquer societies that are less 
advantageously endowed; the latter, driven to territories less 
favorable to human progress, are condemned to remain in a state 
of everlasting inferiority. 

It is not hard to find a fundamental difference between these 
two theories. Even if the monogenistic theory, that all the races 
of mankind derive from a common stock, be granted, the fact still 
remains that differentiating traits are certainly very ancient and 
must have been fixed in ages extremely remote, when man had 
not yet emerged from his savage stage and was therefore more 
prone to feel the influence of the natural agencies with which he 
came into contact. The aboriginal American race had the 
physical traits it now has in a fairly remote prehistoric epoch. 
In very ancient Egyptian bas-reliefs, which go back some twenty 
centuries before our era, figures of Negroes, Semites and native 
Egyptians show the physical characteristics that still distinguish 
them. Keeping to the strictly ethnological theory, therefore, the 
higher races must already have possessed their traits of superior- 
ity at the dawn of history and have retained them practically 
unaltered; whereas the evolutionary theory proper implicitly 
or explicitly assumes that the struggle for existence has had 
its practical effects more recently. To that struggle it ascribes 
the rise and fall of the various nations and civilizations during 
the historic period. 

11. Before the question of racial superiority or inferiority can 
be considered the value of the word "race" has to be determined, 
for it is used sometimes in a very broad, sometimes in a very 


narrow, sense. We speak of white, yellow and black races to 
designate varieties of the human species that not only differ in 
language but present fairly important and fairly palpable 
anatomical differences. We speak of the Aryan and the Semitic 
races to indicate two subdivisions of the white race, which differ, 
to be sure, in language, but which present very striking physical 
resemblances. We also say the Latin, the Germanic, the Slavic 
races, designating by the same term three subdivisions of the 
Aryan branch of the white race. Though these "races" speak 
different languages, it can nevertheless be proved, philologically, 
that they are bound together by a common origin, while their 
physical differences are so slight that a member of one group can 
be mistaken for a member of another. Now in this case, as in all 
others, confusion in terminology leads to confusion in ideas. 
The fact of racial difference is pressed into service as much to 
explain certain diversities in civilization and political organization 
between whites and Negroes as to account for similar diversities 
between Latins, Germans and Slavs, whereas in the first case 
the ethnological coefficient may have a real significance and in 
the second, hardly any at all. 

We must also bear in mind that in historic and prehistoric 
times race crossings and mixtures, particularly between closely 
related races, were frequent. In the latter case, since the 
physical differences between the crossed races are of scant 
importance, and not readily perceptible in any event, classifica- 
tion has been based upon philological affinities rather than upon 
anatomical traits. But the language criterion is anything but 
trustworthy and infallible. It may happen, and frequently does 
happen, that two groups which are closely related by blood speak 
languages that have only remote philological kinship, while 
peoples of different races may speak languages and dialects 
that are closely affiliated as to word roots and grammatical 
structure. However dubious that statement may seem at first 
glance, there are many examples that prove it and many historical 
situations that explain it. In general, conquered peoples who 
are less civilized than their conquerors adopt the laws, arts, 
culture and religion of the latter and often end by adopting their 

The languages and civilizations of the Greeks and Romans 
enjoyed a marvelous expansion through their adoption by 


barbarous peoples. In France the substratum of the population 
is still Cimbro-Celtic, but French is essentially a Neo-Latin 
language. In Spain Basque blood probably predominates in the 
north. In the south the admixture of Arabo-Berber blood must 
be very strong. In Italy there are appreciable ethnic differences 
between Italians of the north and Italians of the south and the 
islands, but the various dialects are all essentially Neo-Latin. 
Leaving the sphere of Latin, we find that the fellahs, who are 
descendants of the ancient Egyptians, have forgotten the ancient 
tongue of Mizraim and adopted Arabic, which, moreover, has 
become general throughout 'Irak-'Arabi and Syria, and is becom- 
ing more and more the spoken language of the African Berbers. 
As for India, dialects of Sanskrit origin are spoken by populations 
which in skin color and facial features show a strong admixture, 
and perhaps even a predominance, of Dravidic blood. In 
Silesia, Brandenburg, Pomerania and old Prussia, German is the 
language of populations that were partly Slavic or partly Lettish 
in origin. In our own day, finally, the Celts of Ireland and 
northern Scotland are adopting English more and more. 

These considerations are self-evident; yet people continue to 
make ethnographic classifications, especially of European 
peoples, with sole reference to philological criteria. To tell the 
truth, it may be said in defense of this system that similarity 
of language, engendering as it does a freer interchange of ideas 
and feelings between certain peoples, tends to give them a far 
stronger resemblance in intellectual and moral type than cus- 
tomarily results from mere blood relationship. 

Bearing all this in mind, it seems to us an established fact that 
the most primitive races, those which anthropologists call 
"lower" the Fuegians, the Australians, the Bushmen, and so 
on are physically and intellectually inferior to the others. 
Whether that inferiority is innate, whether it has always existed, 
or whether it is to be attributed to the barrenness of their 
habitats, to the meagerness of the resources that their sur- 
roundings offer and to the abject poverty resulting, is a question 
that it is neither easy nor essential for us to answer. After all, 
these races represent only a very minute fraction of mankind, and 
that fraction is rapidly dwindling before the expansion of the 
white race, which is being followed in its turn, in many places, by 
an infiltration from the yellow race. In strict justice we are 


obliged to recognize that the prosperity of the white and yellow 
races in localities where the aborigines barely managed to subsist 
has not been wholly due to the organic superiority which the 
former boastfully claim. The newcomers bring with them 
knowledge and material means which enable them to reap an 
ample livelihood from soils that of themselves would yield prac- 
tically nothing. The Australian native for centuries upon cen- 
turies was content to track the kangaroo, bring down birds with his 
boomerang or, if worse came to worst, eat a lizard. But we must 
remember that he had no means of securing the seeds to grow 
grains or other edible plants, or the breeders for flocks of sheep, 
which the English colonists had at their disposal. 

It is still harder to come to any decision as to the inferiority 
of the native American and the black races. Those races have 
from time immemorial held possession of far-flung territories in 
which powerful civilizations might have developed. In America, 
populous empires arose in Mexico, Peru and a few other regions. 
We cannot determine the degree of their culture with any exact- 
ness, since it was their misfortune to crumble before the onslaught 
of a few hundred Spanish adventurers. In Africa, the blacks 
have managed to organize fairly extensive political units at one 
time or another, for example, in Uganda; but not one among 
such states ever attained by itself a degree of culture that could 
be compared with that of the most ancient empires founded by 
the white races, or of the Chinese, Babylonian and ancient 
Egyptian empires, where the civilizing races were not black. It 
would seem, accordingly, that a certain inferiority might also be 
attributed prima facie to both the American Indians and the 

But when things have gone in a certain way, it is not always 
legitimate to assume that they necessarily and unfailingly had to 
go that way. It is doubtful whether man existed in the Tertiary 
period, but it has been scientifically proved that his antiquity 
goes back to the beginnings of the Quaternary period and that 
the age of man therefore has to be computed not in thousands 
of years but in hundreds and perhaps thousands of centuries. 
Now the races of man, as we noted above, must have been formed 
at a very remote epoch, and since such long periods are involved 
the fact that a race has attained a notable degree of culture 
thirty, forty, even fifty centuries before another is not an infallible 


proof of its organic superiority. External circumstances, often 
fortuitous the discovery and utilization of a metal, which may 
happen more or less easily according to the region, the availability 
or absence of domesticable plants or animals may accelerate or 
retard the progress of a civilization, or even alter its history. If 
the American Indians had known the use of iron a hypothesis 
that is not in the least far-fetched, since they did know other 
metals, such as gold and copper or if the Europeans had 
invented gunpowder two centuries later than they did, the 
Europeans would not so swiftly or go completely have destroyed 
the political organizations of the Indians. Nor should we forget 
that if a race that has attained a ripe civilization, on coming into 
contact with another race that is still in a state of barbarism, 
contributes to the latter a store of useful tools and knowledge, it 
nevertheless profoundly disturbs, if it does not altogether arrest, 
the spontaneous and original development of the primitive 

Not only, in fact, have the whites almost everywhere wiped 
out or subjugated the American Indians. For centuries and 
centuries, now with alcohol, now with the slave trade, they have 
brutalized and impoverished the Negro race. We are obliged 
to agree, therefore, that European civilization has not only 
hindered but actually thwarted any effort toward progress that 
Negroes and Indians might have made of their own accord. 

At various branches of the American Indian race, as well as 
at the Polynesians, the Australians and others of the less fortunate 
races of human beings, the charge has been leveled that they 
cannot survive contact with the white man but vanish rapidly 
before his advance. The truth is that the whites deprive the 
colored races of their means of livelihood before those races have 
time to accustom themselves to utilizing the new means of sub- 
sistence that are introduced by the whites. As a rule the 
hunting territories of the primitive tribes are invaded and the 
big game destroyed before the native can adapt himself to agri- 
culture. Moreover the civilized races communicate their dis- 
eases to the less civilized, while the latter are unable to take 
advantage of the preventive or curative measures that scientific 
progress and long experience have taught to the whites. Tuber- 
culosis, syphilis and smallpox would probably wreak as great 
havoc among us as they have wrought in certain primitive tribes 


if we tried to forestall and cure them exclusively with the means 
that the savages have at their disposal no means at all, in other 

Are Indians and Negroes on the whole inferior to whites as 
individuals? While most people would answer with a ready and 
emphatic yes, some few with equal promptness and resolve say 
no. As for us, we find it as hard to agree as to disagree in terms 
at all positive. Observers rarely fail to report, in strictly primi- 
tive groups of these races, individuals who are outstanding for 
qualities, now of mind, now of heart. Where the American 
aborigines have mingled with the whites and adopted their civili- 
zation, they have not failed to produce distinguished men in 
nearly all branches of human activity, and under identical condi- 
tions the Negroes can boast of a list of names almost as long. 
Nevertheless, one has to admit, as regards both these races, that 
the roster of conspicuous individuals is very brief as compared 
with the number of individuals who have been, and are, in a 
position to enjoy the advantages offered by civilized life. Some 
weight, however, has to be given to a remark that was made to 
Henry George by a scholarly Negro bishop, 1 that Negro school 
children do as well as white children and show themselves just 
as wide-awake and intelligent up to the age of ten or twelve; but 
as soon as they begin to realize that they belong to a race that 
is adjudged inferior, and that they can look forward to no better 
lot than that of cooks and porters, they lose interest in studying 
and lapse into apathy. In a great part of America colored people 
are generally regarded as inferior creatures, who must inevitably 
be relegated to the lowest social strata. Now if the disinherited 
classes among the whites bore on their faces the indelible stamp 
of social inferiority, it is certain that few individuals indeed 
among them would have the energy to raise themselves to a 
social position very much higher than the one to which they 
were born. 

If some doubt may be raised as to the aptitude of Negroes and 
American Indians for the higher forms of civilization and political 
organization, all perplexity vanishes as regards the Aryans and 
the Semites, the Mongolian, or yellow, race and that dark Asiatic 
race which lives mixed with the Aryan stock in India and has 
fused with the yellow in southern China, in Indo-China and 

1 Progress and Poverty, book X, chap. II, p. 2. 


perhaps in Japan. These races taken together make up more 
than three-fourths, and perhaps as much as four-fifths, of all 
mankind. We say nothing of the Polynesian race. It may well 
have superior capacities, but being scant in numbers and dis- 
persed over small islands, it has not been able to create any 
great civilization. 

The Chinese succeeded in founding a highly original civiliza- 
tion which has shown wondrous powers of survival and even 
more wondrous powers of expansion* Offshoots in large part of 
Chinese civilization are the cultures of Japan and Indo-China, 
and the Sumerian people which founded the earliest civilization 
in Babylonia seems to have belonged to a Turanian stock. The 
dark Asiatic race seems to have developed a very ancient civili- 
zation in Elam, or Susiana, and an autochthonous culture 
apparently existed in India before the coming of the Aryans. 
Egypt owes her civilization to a so-called sub-Semitic or Berber 
race, and Nineveh, Sidon, Jerusalem, Damascus and perhaps even 
Sardis belonged to the Semites. Reference to the more recent 
civilization of the Mohammedan Arabs seems to us superfluous. 

12. While not holding to the absolute superiority or inferiority 
of any human race, many people believe that each race has special 
intellectual and moral qualities and that these necessarily corre- 
spond to certain types of social and political organization, from 
which the spirit, or, better, the peculiar "genius" of the race, 
will not permit it to depart. 

Now, making all due allowances for the exaggerations that 
gain ready admission to discussions of this subject, and taking 
account at all times of the great fund of human traits that is 
present in all peoples in all ages, it cannot be denied that not 
to say every race every nation, every region, every city presents 
a certain special type that is not uniformly definite and clear-cut 
everywhere but which consists in a body of ideas, beliefs, opinions, 
sentiments, customs and prejudices, which are to each group of 
human beings what the lineaments of the face are to each 

This variation in type could safely be regarded as due to 
physical diversities, to racial variations, to the different blood 
that flows in the veins of each different nationality, did it not 
find its explanation in another fact, wfrich is one of the best 


authenticated and most constant that observation of human 
nature affords. We refer to mimetism, to that great psycho- 
logical force whereby every individual is wont to adopt the ideas, 
the beliefs, the sentiments that are most current in the environ- 
ment in which he has grown up. Save for rare and rarely 
complete exceptions, a person thinks, judges and believes the 
way the society in which he lives thinks, judges and believes. We 
observe that aspect of things which is commonly noted by the 
persons about us, and the individual preferably develops those 
moral and intellectual attitudes which are most prevalent and 
most highly esteemed in the human environment in which he 
has been formed. 

In fact, unity of moral and intellectual type is found to be very 
strong in groups of persons having nothing special in common as 
regards blood or race. The Catholic clergy will serve as an 
example. Scattered the world over, it always preserves a singular 
uniformity in its beliefs, its intellectual and moral attitudes and 
its customs. The phenomenon is most striking in the various 
religious orders. Well known is the remarkable resemblance of 
an Italian Jesuit to a French, German or English Jesuit. A 
strong resemblance exists, too, in the military type that is 
common to almost all the great European armies, and a fairly 
constant intellectual or moral type may further exist within 
separate regiments, in military academies and even in secular 
schools anywhere, in short, where a special environment has 
somehow been established, a sort of psychological mold that 
shapes to its own contour any individual who happens to be 
cast into it. 

We are not for the moment inquiring as to how the great 
national environments, and better still those great psychological 
currents that sometimes embrace a whole civilization or all the 
followers of a religion, have come into being, lived their lives and, 
often, vanished from the world scene. To launch out on such a 
study would involve retraversing the history of the whole 
civilized portion of mankind. But this much we can safely say: 
that historical circumstances peculiar to each of the great groups 
of mankind have in the main fashioned the special environments 
mentioned, and that new historical circumstances slowly modify, 
or even destroy, those environments. The role that blood 
relationship, that race, plays in the formation of the various 


moral and mental environments may, in certain cases at least, be 
slight and of difficult appraisal even when the ethnological factor 
seems at first glance to be preponderant. 

Apt to this point would be the example of the Jews, who have 
been dispersed among other peoples yet for centuries upon cen- 
turies have wondrously preserved their national type. But we 
must not forget, either, that the children of Israel have Always 
lived spiritually apart from the peoples among whom they dwelt, 
and therefore have always been in a special environment. As 
Leroy-Beaulieu well says, 1 the modern Jew is a product of the 
isolation in which he has for centuries been kept by the Torah, 
the Talmud and the ghetto. The progeny of Jewish families 
that are converted to Christianity or to Islamism rarely retain 
the characteristics of their ancestors for any length of time for 
many generations, that is; and the unconverted Jew best pre- 
serves his special type in countries where he keeps most to himself. 
A Jew from Little Russia or Constantinople is much more Jewish 
than his coreligionists who have been born and bred in Italy or 
France, where the ghetto is now just a memory. Chinese 
immigrants in America take over white civilization in many 
respects, but their mental type remains unchanged, while the 
Chinese in California and some other states always keep to 
themselves in a Chinese environment. In European and Asiatic 
Turkey, Turks, Greeks, Armenians, Jews and Levantines live 
together in the same cities. They do not fuse nor are their races 
modified, for in spite of the fact that they live in material con- 
tact, they are spiritually separated, each group having its own 
special environment. The great tenacity with which the English 
national type maintains itself, as compared with other nation- 
alities of Europe, may be the result of the scant sociability that 
English settlers in foreign countries manifest toward natives, 
which inclines them to cluster together in a miniature British 
environment. Many cases might be mentioned where ethnic 
affinity between two peoples is a virtually negligible bond as 
compared with the ties that result from similarities in religion 
or from the fact of common histories and civilizations. Ethnolo- 
gists have discovered that a Magyar is more closely related to a 
Chinese or a Turk than to a Frenchman or a German. But who 
would claim that he is morally and intellectually closer to the 

1 "Les Juifs et I'anti-a&nitisme." 


two former than to the two latter? The Mohammedan Aryans 
of Persia and Hindustan certainly have closer moral affinities 
with the Arabs and Turks than with their European kinsmen; 
and Jews long settled in western Europe certainly feel spiritu- 
ally closer to the nations among whom they live than to the 
Arabs, who are blood relatives but who have adopted Oriental 

The so-called genius of a race, therefore, has nothing pre- 
destined or inevitable about it, as some people are pleased to 
imagine. Even granting that the various " higher " races in 
other words races that are capable of creating original civiliza- 
tions of their own differ organically from each other, it is not 
the sum of their organic differences that has exclusively or even 
principally determined the differences in the social type that 
they have adopted, but rather the differences in social contacts 
and in the historical circumstances to which every nation, every 
social organism let alone every race is fated to be subject. 

13. The question of race would at this point be settled if 
everyone were in agreement that the organic and psychological 
changes by which a human race may be modified over an exten- 
sive period of history for example, twenty or thirty centuries 
are hardly appreciable and virtually negligible. But this is far 
from being a generally accepted belief. There is, in fact, a whole 
school of historical thinking that is founded on quite different 
postulates. Applying Darwin's doctrines about the evolution 
of species to the social sciences, this school holds that every 
human group can make considerable organic improvements in 
relatively brief periods of time, whence the possibility of political 
and social betterment. 

Now, without discussing or denying Darwin's theories about 
the transformation of species, and even granting man's descent 
from a hypothetical Anthropopithecus, one fact seems to us cer- 
tain, undebatable and obvious at first glance: that the famous 
struggle for existence, along with the natural selection that 
follows from it, as described for plants, animals and savage man, 
does not appear in human societies that have attained anything 
higher than a very elementary stage of civilization. The eager- 
ness to find such a struggle in human societies is in part due to 
the extraordinary success of the Darwinian hypothesis when 


applied to the natural sciences. That success was bound to 
offer a strong temptation to systematic minds to extend the 
application of the hypothesis to other fields. But it is also due 
to a misapprehension, to a failure to distinguish between two 
facts that are basically different though apparently they have 
points of contact and this confusion, too, is readily under- 
standable in minds that are strongly predisposed in favor of the 
evolutionary theory. To put the situation in a few words, the 
struggle for existence has been confused with the struggle for 
preeminence, which is really a constant phenomenon that arises 
in all human societies, from the most highly civilized down to such 
as have barely issued from savagery. 

In a struggle between two human societies, the victorious 
society as a rule fails to annihilate the vanquished society, but 
subjects it, assimilates it, imposes its own type of civilization 
upon it. In our day in Europe and America war has no other 
result than political hegemony for the nation that proves superior 
in a military sense, or perhaps the seizure of some bit of territory. 
But even in ancient times, when Greece was fighting Persia and 
Rome Carthage, the political organization, the national existence, 
of the vanquished peoples was sometimes destroyed, but indi- 
vidually, even in the worst cases, they were usually reduced to 
servitude rather than put to the sword. Cases like that of 
Saguntum and of Numantia, or like the taking of Tyre by Alex- 
ander the Great, or of Carthage by Scipio, have been at all 
periods of history altogether exceptional. The Assyrians in the 
ancient East and the Mongols in the Middle Ages were the 
peoples most given to the practice of systematically butchering 
the peoples they conquered. But even they used the practice 
rather as a means of frightening enemies into surrender than as 
an end in itself; and it cannot be said that a single people was 
ever exterminated root and branch by their frightful slaughters. 
As instances of complete destruction of peoples by conquerors 
the cases of the Tasmanians, the Australians and the American 
Indians are commonly mentioned. But actually those were 
primitive tribes with small populations scattered over large 
territories. They perished, or are perishing, chiefly because, as 
we have seen, agriculture and an encroaching civilization have 
reduced the supply of big game which was their principal means 
of subsistence. In a few regions where the Indians have been 


able to adapt themselves to a crude sort of agriculture, they have 
escaped destruction. In Mexico and Peru the natives were 
numerous at the time of the Spanish conquest because they had 
reached the agricultural stage. In spite of the slaughters com- 
mitted by their Spanish conquerors they today form the great 
majority in Spanish American populations. In Algeria, too, a 
hard and bloody conquest by the French has not reduced the 
numerical strength of the natives. 

If we consider, rather, the inner ferment that goes on within 
the body of every society, we see at once that the struggle for 
preeminence is far more conspicuous there than the struggle 
for existence. Competition between individuals of every social 
unit is focused upon higher position, wealth, authority, control 
of the means and instruments that enable a person to direct 
many human activities, many human wills, as he sees 
fit. The losers, who are of course the majority in that 
sort of struggle, are not devoured, destroyed or even 
kept from reproducing their kind, as is basically charac- 
teristic of the struggle for life. They merely enjoy fewer material 
satisfactions and, especially, less freedom and independence. 
On the whole, indeed, in civilized societies, far from being gradu- 
ally eliminated by a process of natural selection so called, the 
lower classes are more prolific than the higher, and even in the 
lower classes every individual in the long run gets a loaf of bread 
and a mate, though the bread be more or less dark and hard- 
earned and the mate more or less unattractive or undesirable. 
The polygamy that is common in upper classes is the only point 
that might be cited in support of the principle of natural selection 
as applied to primitive and civilized societies. But even that 
argument is weak. Among human beings polygamy does not 
necessarily imply greater fertility. In fact, the preferably 
polygamous human societies have been the ones that have made 
least social progress. It would seem to follow, therefore, that 
natural selection has proved to be least effective in the cases 
where it has had freest play. 

14. Then again, if the progress of a race or a nation depends 
primarily on organic improvement in the individuals who com- 
pose it, the world's story should present a far different plot from 
the one, we know* The moral and intellectual, and therefore the 


social, progress of every people should be slower and more con- 
tinuous. The law of natural selection combined with the law of 
heredity should carry each generation a step, but only a step, 
ahead of the preceding generation; and we should not, as is 
frequently the case in history, see a people take a great many 
steps forward, or sometimes a great many steps backward, in 
the course of two or three generations. 

Examples of such rapid advances and giddy declines are so 
common as scarcely to require mention. A mere hundred and 
twenty years intervened between the day of Pisistratus and the 
day of Socrates; but during those years Hellenic art, Hellenic 
thought, Hellenic civilization made such measureless progress as 
to transform a nation of mediocre though ancient civilization into 
the Greece which traced the most glamorous, the most profound, 
the most unforgettable pages in the story of human progress. 
We do not mention the case of Rome because, to tell the truth, 
Hellenic influence played a large part in her meteoric passage 
from barbarism to civilization. The Italy of the Renaissance is 
chronologically only a little over a century removed from the 
Italy of Dante; but in that interval the artistic, moral and 
scientific ideal is transformed by an inner creative ferment of the 
nation and the man of the Middle Ages changes and is gone. 

Compare, for a moment, the France of 1650 and the France of 
1750. Still alive in the former are men who can remember St. 
Bartholomew's Eve. The religious wars, the Holy League, the 
falling of two kings under the assassin's dagger, are facts which 
have not yet acquired the mystery of ancientness eyewitnesses 
of them cannot be rare. Anyone who has passed early youth 
may easily have been present at the taking of La Rochelle, the 
closihg scene in the historic period referred to. Almost no one 
dares voice a doubt as to the existence of goblins and witches. A 
scant thirty-seven years have passed since the wife of Marshal 
d'Ancre was burned at the stake as a witch. A century later, 
Montesquieu is an old man, Voltaire and Rousseau are in their, 
prime, the Encyclopedia, if not published, has already ripened in 
the intellectual world. As far as ideas, beliefs, customs, are 
concerned, the revolution of '89 may be considered virtually 
complete. But without wandering far afield for other examples, 
why not take the chief countries of present-day Europe 
England, Germany, Italy, Spain? Certainly if the intellectual 


and spiritual revolution that has taken place in those countries 
in the course of the past century had had to depend on organic 
modifications in their populations, many dozens of generations at 
least would have been required. 

In certain regions, which for special causes had lagged behind 
the general trend in Europe, the transformation has been more 
rapid and, especially, more profound. Anyone superficially 
familiar with the histories of Scotland and Sicily can make a 
ready comparison between social conditions in Scotland in 1748 
and the status that country had attained in 1848, and between 
social conditions in Sicily in 181 and conditions there today. 1 

On the other hand, examples of swift declines in nations or 
whole civilizations are far from rare. There is a very general 
inclination to charge these to destructive barbarian invasions, 
but this is to forget that before a civilized country can fall prey 
to barbarians it must have lapsed into a state of great exhaustion 
and disorganization, which in turn must be due to moral and 
political decay. Greater civilization almost always presupposes 
greater population and the possession of more potent and effective 
resources for offense and defense. China has twice been con- 
quered by Mongols or Tatars, and India a number of times by 
Turks, Tatars and Afghans. But the Chinese and Hindu civili- 
zations had already entered upon periods of decline at the time 
of such invasions. 

That decline in civilized peoples is in certain cases spontaneous 
can be almost mathematically proved. All Orientalists know 
that the most ancient of all the Egyptian civilizations the one 
that built the Nile canals, invented hieroglyphic writing and reared 
the great pyramids fell to pieces of its own accord and vanished 
so completely that so far no one has been able to learn why. 
There were civil wars that is all we know. Then came dark- 
ness and barbarism, from which, more than four centuries 
later, a new civilization just as spontaneously emerged. Says 

Beginning with the civil disturbances in which Nit-agrit lost his life, 
Egyptian civilization enters upon a sudden eclipse that has so far 
remained unexplainable. Manetho counts 436 years between the end 
of the Sixth Dynasty and the beginning of the Eleventh. During that 

1 The rapid progress of the Scottish Highlanders has been studied by Colajanni 
in La sociologia criminale. 


period the monuments are absolutely silent. It is as though Egypt had 
been stricken from the roster of nations, and when civilization reappears 
at the end of the long slumber it seems to begin without any tradition 
from the past. 1 

As a matter of fact, Lenormant does not deny that foreign 
invasions may have occurred during the period in question, but, 
in any event, over and above the fact that there is no trace of 
them in monuments and inscriptions, it is certain that they must 
have followed, not preceded, the decline of the earlier Egyptian 

Babylonia, for many centuries a center of civilization, was not 
destroyed by its conquerors not by Cyrus, not by Darius, not 
by Alexander. It collapsed and disappeared from the world 
scene by slow decay, by automatic dissolution. The Roman 
Empire in the West is said to have been destroyed by barbarians. 
But anyone even moderately familiar with Roman history knows 
that the barbarians killed a mere corpse, that the decline in art, 
literature, wealth, public administration in short, in all phases 
of Roman civilization had been tremendous between the days of 
Marcus Aurelius and the days of Diocletian. During this 
period the barbarians made temporary raids into a few provinces, 
to be sure, but they gained a foothold nowhere within the empire 
and wrought no lasting harm. A great invasion by the Goths 
occurred under the Emperor Decius and was finally repulsed by 
Claudius II. It was, however, exceptional. It laid waste the 
eastern provinces of the empire, but Greco-Roman civilization 
was to survive for many, many centuries in those very districts. 
Without disturbances from any foreign invasion or other external 
forces, the Spain of the second half of the seventeenth century 
became a mere shadow of the country that a century earlier had 
been the Spain of Charles V, and half a century earlier had had 
a Cervantes, a Lope de Vega and a Quevedo. This rapid decline 
of the Iberian peninsula has been blamed on the expulsion of the 
Moors, which occurred for the most part in 1609, under Philip 
III. But the expulsion of the Moors injured only a few prov- 
inces, notably parts of Valencia and Andalusia, and these were 
the regions that suffered least in the general impoverishment of 
Spain. Portugal and Italy declined simultaneously with Spain, 

1 Histoire ancienne de l'0rient t vol. II, chap^. II. 


though to a less appreciable extent. Certainly they were not 
suffering from any expulsion of Moors. 

The theory of organic and superorganic evolution with natural 
selection explains all such facts very badly, or rather not at all. 
Keeping to that theory, a more highly civilized people should be 
progressively purified and improved by the struggle for existence 
and should through heredity acquire over others an advantage, 
which, so far as one can see, it should not lose in the race of the 
nations across the centuries. What we see, instead, is a nation, 
or a group of peoples, now leaping forward with irresistible 
impetus, then collapsing or lagging wretchedly behind. One 
may note, to be sure, a certain progressive movement which, in 
spite of interruptions and gaps, thrusts mankind farther and 
farther forward, and the present civilization of the Aryan race 
is in fact superior to all preceding civilizations. But we must 
bear in mind that every new people that has the good fortune to 
become civilized has a shorter road to travel and expends infinitely 
less effort, because it inherits the experience and the positive 
knowledge of all the civilizations that have preceded it. 

Certainly the Germans of Tacitus would never have succeeded 
in so few as eighteen centuries in forming such centers of culture 
as London, Berlin and New York if they had had to discover by 
themselves alphabetic writing, the fundamental principles of 
mathematics and all the immense store of knowledge that they 
gained from contact with the Greeks and Romans. Nor would 
Hellenic and Roman civilisations have made the progress they 
made without infiltrations from ancient Near Eastern civiliza- 
tions, to which they in fact owed the alphabet and the rudiments 
of the exact sciences. Human civilization progresses by scien- 
tific rather than by organic inheritance. The descendants of a 
civilized people may stagnate or may even relapse into barbarism, 
but the learning of their fathers may fertilize the nascent civili- 
zation of uncouth hordes that happen to find themselves favorably 
placed for receiving such beneficent germs. The modern Anglo- 
Saxons are not descendants of the Romans or the Greeks, or of the 
Semites of Syria among whom the religion that has left so deep 
an imprint on the people of Great Britain and its colonies origi- 
nated. They are not descendants of the Arabs to whom the 
world owes much of the physical and mathematical knowledge 
which the English and Americans of modern times have so 


wondrously applied and made productive. What they have 
inherited is not the blood but the scientific and psychological 
achievements of the peoples mentioned. At times a people 
rising anew to civilization may avail itself of the intellectual and 
spiritual activity of ancestors who have regressed from civiliza- 
tion after once attaining it. That was the case with the ancient 
Egyptians and with the Italians of the Renaissance; but that 
very fact, if we choose to scrutinize it carefully, furnishes one 
more argument against the theory that social progress depends 
on organic heredity. 

Even the evolutionists recognize that other races attained 
civilization earlier than the Aryan race and earlier than the 
Germanic branch of that race in particular; but they add that 
those races declined or became stationary because they had aged 
in other words, because they had exhausted all the intellectual 
and moral resources at their command. Really, this idea of the 
aging of races seems to us the product of a wholly specious 
analogy between the life of an individual and the life of a com- 
munity. But, to keep to the facts as we see them, for the very 
reason that the members of a community continuously reproduce 
themselves and each new generation has all the vigor of youth, 
a whole society can hardly grow old in the same sense in which 
an individual grows old when his powers begin to fail. 1 So far as 
we know, furthermore, no organic difference has ever been found 
between the individuals in a progressing society and the individ- 
uals in a declining society. 

Societies in decline grow old because of changes in their type of 
social structure. At such times religious beliefs, customs, preju- 
dices, the traditions on which political and social institutions are 
grounded, grow old, or rather are gradually discredited. But 
these are all social elements, the changes in which come about 
through the interposition of new historical factors with which a 
people chances to come into contact, or even through a slow and 
automatic intellectual, moral and social evolution within the 
people itself. It is hazardous, therefore, very hazardous indeed, 
to assert that changes in the physical constitution of a race play 
any part in such things. It would be difficult to show that the 
brains of the Frenchmen of Voltaire's day were differently con- 

1 We borrow this remark from Henry George, Progress and Poverty* book X, 
chap. I, last page. 


stituted from the brains of their great-grandfathers who com- 
mitted the Massacre of St. Bartholomew and organized the 
League. It is very easy to show, on the other hand, that in a 
little over a century and a half the economic and- political situa- 
tion in France, and her intellectual atmosphere, had altered 

The belief that all non- Aryan civilizations the Egyptian, the 
Babylonian, the ancient and modern Chinese have been, and 
still are, uniformly stationary seems to us to be due to nothing 
less than an optical illusion arising from the fact that we view 
them from so far away. So it is with the mountains of Sicily, 
which, viewed from afar off under that limpid, transparent sky, 
look like lovely azure walls closing the horizon with a uniform 
perpendicularity, but which from close at hand look altogether 
otherwise, since each comprises its own particular little world of 
ascents, descents and irregularities of every kind. Chaldean 
and Egyptian monuments have shown with a positiveness that 
can no longer be questioned that there were ups and downs, 
periods of decline and periods of renascence and progress in 
goodly number both on the banks of the Nile and on the banks 
of the Euphrates and the Tigris. 1 As for China, its civilization 
has, to be sure, endured amazingly and without interruption for 
some thousands of years, but that is not saying that it was 
always the same. We know enough of Chinese history to be 
certain that the political and social organization of the Celestial 
Empire has undergone tremendous changes in the course of the 
centuries. China had her feudal period and, at least until very 
recently, she was ruled by a bureaucracy recruited by competitive 
examinations. Religion and property ownership have also under- 
gone most varied vicissitudes in China. 2 

15. In his Evolution de la morale, Letourneau attributes prog- 
ress in human societies to an organic process whereby a good 
action, which would be a useful action, leaves its mark on the 
brain and nerve centers of the individual who performs it. That 
mark, repeated over and over again, produces a tendency to 
reiterate the same act, and the tendency is in turn transmitted 

1 Lenormant, Maspero, Brugsch. 

2 Rousset, A travers la Chine; Mechnikov, La civilisation et les grands fleuves 
kistoriques; Clis6e R6clus, Nouvelle g&ographie universelle, vol. VII. 


to the individual's descendants. In the first place, one might 
ask why bad in other words, harmful actions should not leave 
similar marks; and in the second place, as regards useful acts, 
one might ask, useful to whom ? To the individual who performs 
them or to society? The two utilities are only too separate and 
distinct, and it would seem necessary to have had very little 
experience of the world to maintain that an action that is useful 
to society is generally useful to the individual who performs it, 
and vice versa. But suppose we let Letourneau speak for himself : 

Just as phosphorescent bodies remember light, so the nerve cell 
remembers its intimate acts, but in ways that are infinitely more varied 
and persistent. Every act that has been performed at the instance of a 
nerve cell leaves on the cell a sort of functional residue that thencefor- 
ward will facilitate repetitions of the act and sometimes provoke it. 
Such reiteration, in fact, will become easier and easier and in the end will 
take place spontaneously, automatically. By that time the nerve cell 
has acquired an inclination, a habit, an instinct, a need. 1 

And again he says: 

Nerve cells are essentially impregnation mechanisms. Every cur- 
rent of molecular activity that runs through them leaves a more or less 
revivescent trace upon them. By sufficient repetition these traces 
become organic, fixed, and are even transmitted by heredity, and each 
of them has a corresponding tendency, a corresponding inclination, 
which will manifest itself in due time and contribute to the formation of 
what is called character. This general picture must be held in view if 
one would have any comprehension of the origin and evolution of 

Further pursuing the same idea he adds: 

In their essential aspects ethics are utilitarian and progressive. 
However, once they have been formed, once they have been established 
in the nerve centers, moral or immoral inclinations fade as slowly as they 
have been clothed with flesh. Often also they reappear atavistically, 
and in such cases one suddenly sees moral specimens from the Stone Age 
rising in the full midst of a relatively civilized society, or heroic types in 
the flower of a mercantile civilization. 

These quotations should suffice to give a fairly accurate idea of 
the writer's basic conception. They will further suffice to give a 

1 Evolution de la morale, chaps. II and XX. 


fairly clear idea of the arguments of the whole school that bases 
its sociology on the anthropological sciences. 

But however attractive, however daring, hypotheses may be, 
they are of value in science only when they are supported by 
experience, in other words, by demonstrations based on fact. 
We have no intention of discussing here the genuineness of the 
complicated organic process that we find set forth in Letourneau's 
book with such definiteness and assurance. But facts are always 
facts. They have the same scientific value whether they are 
derived from studies of nerve cells, or of the hair color and cranial 
measurements of this race or that, from observations of animal 
societies or from studies of human history. The only classifica- 
tion in order of importance that is permissible is a classification 
that distinguishes carefully ascertained facts facts, for example, 
that have not been discovered and championed by the same men 
who have spun theories about them from dubious, inadequately 
tested facts that have been colored by the preconceptions of the 
observer. Now all history amply shows that the progress of 
human societies does not follow the course that it would follow 
if the theories of the anthropological school were sound. Before 
we can accept these theories, therefore, they at least have to be 
qualified. It has to be admitted that the civilized human being, 
or the human being capable of civilization, who is certainly no 
newcomer on the face of the earth, has experienced in his nerve 
cells so many and such varied moral impressions that he is able to 
adopt the most disparate tendencies and habits, both those 
which lead a society toward intellectual, moral and political 
betterment and those which carry it toward decline and ruin. 1 

16. But so qualified, the anthropological theory has no practi- 
cal value left. It does not, it cannot, tell us anything that we 
do not already know. It is more worth our while, therefore, to 
seek scientific results along some other road, however rough the 

1 See Fouillee, "La Psychologic des peuples et Fanthropologie." This article 
supports practically the same thesis that we put forward here, with more or less 
similar arguments. Fouillee writes: "Ethnic factors are not the only factors, 
nor the most important ones, that figure in a national character. Uniform 
education, similar training, common beliefs more than make up for differences 
in racial stock." Colajanni and Mechnikov also vigorously and brilliantly 
combat writers who are inclined to exaggerate the importance of race as a social 


going may be. The truth is that just as the study of climatic 
differences has never been able to supply a general law to explain 
the organization of human societies and the variety of type that 
such societies present, so too no satisfactory law has been found 
on the basis of racial diversities; nor is it possible to ascribe the 
progress or the ruin of nations to organic improvements or 
organic degenerations in races. 

Anyone who has traveled a good deal ordinarily comes to the 
conclusion that underneath superficial differences in customs and 
habits human beings are psychologically very much alike the 
world over; and anyone who has read history at all deeply reaches 
a similar conclusion with regard to the various periods of human 
civilization. Dipping into the documents that tell us how people 
of other ages felt, thought and lived, we come always to the same 
conclusion: that they were very much like us. 

Psychological resemblance is always stronger among peoples 
who have attained approximately similar levels of civilization 
than it is among peoples closer to each other chronologically and 
ethnically. In his manner of thinking a modern Italian or 
German is nearer to a Greek of the time of Plato and Aristotle 
than he is to a medieval ancestor of his own. The literatures of 
the different epochs bear the most emphatic testimony to that fact. 

Such psychological resemblances, and the fact that the great 
races which constitute four-fifths of mankind have shown them- 
selves capable of the most varied vicissitudes of progress and 
decline lead us to advance a hypothesis which follows also from 
the negative investigations we have so far been making. We are 
inclined to think that just as human beings, or at least the great 
human races, have a constant tendency toward social grouping, 
so too they have equally constant and powerful psychological 
tendencies which impel them onward toward ever higher levels of 
culture and social progress. Such tendencies, however, operate 
with more or less vigor, or may even be stifled, according as they 
find physical environments complexes of circumstances that 
might be called "chance" which are more or less favorable; 
and according also as they are more or less hampered by social 
environments, in other words by psychological tendencies equally 
universal and constant. 1 

1 For proof that what we call "chance" a chain of circumstances that 
escape human control and foresight has its influence on the destinies of nations, 


That, after all, is an organic process similar to what takes place 
in the whole animal and vegetable world, though far more com- 
plicated. A plant has a strong tendency to spread and multiply. 
The tendency may be seconded or thwarted by physical environ- 
ment, in other words by conditions of water supply and climate, 
by chance in the form of wind and birds which fertilize or scatter 
its seeds, and then again by traits of the plant itself, the greater or 
lesser resistance it offers to diseases that attack it. And a 
similar process goes on in that branch of social activity which 
has been so generally and so successfully studied the production 
of wealth. Wealth production has a tendency to increase unlim- 
itedly, but the tendency is more or less hindered by physical 
obstacles; it is to an extent hindered by chance; and it is hindered, 
finally, by the ignorance, the consuming greed and the mental 
attitudes of human beings. 

Man neither creates nor destroys any of the forces of nature, 
but he can study their manner of acting and their interplay and 
turn them to his advantage. That is the procedure in agricul- 
ture, in navigation, in mechanics. By following it modern 
science has been able to achieve almost miraculous results in 
those fields of activity. The method surely cannot be different 
when the social sciences are involved, and in fact it is the very 
method that has already yielded fair results in political economy. 
Yet we must not disguise the fact that in the social sciences in 
general the difficulties to be overcome are enormously greater. 
Not only does the greater complexity of psychological laws (or 
constant tendencies) that are common to all human groups make 
it harder to determine their operation, but it is easier to observe 
the things that go on about us than it is to observe the things we 
ourselves do. Man can much more easily study the phenomena 
of physics, chemistry or botany than he can his own instincts 
and his own passions. One should think of the "divers prej- 
udices" which, according to Spencer, impede progress in the 
social sciences. Certainly the student of political science has to 
look objectively upon nationalities, religions, political parties, 
political doctrines, treating them merely as phenomena of the 

we need only reflect that in the past the fate of a nation has often hinged on the 
outcome of a single battle (for example, Plataea, Zama, J^rez, Poitiers, Hastings) 
and that, especially before wars came to be waged according to scientific prin- 
ciples, chance played a large part in the outcome of a battle. 


human mind. But the precept is more easily given to others 
than applied by one's self. It must be confessed that the objec- 
tivity essential to the successful conduct of this type of observa- 
tion will always be the privilege of the limited number of indi- 
viduals who are endowed with special aptitudes and have under- 
gone special intellectual training. But then, even granting 
that such individuals can attain scientific results, it is highly 
problematical whether they can succeed in using them to modify 
the political conduct of the great human societies. What 
happens in economics is instructive. Free trade is unanimously 
regarded by unprejudiced experts in that science as a good thing, 
yet the most highly civilized nations are today turning to the 
fiercest protectionism. 

17. Whatever practical value political science may have in the 
future, progress in that field will be based upon the study of the 
facts of society, and those facts can be found only in the history 
of the various nations. In other words, if political science is to 
be grounded upon the observation and interpretation of the 
facts of political life, it is to the old historical method that we 
must return. To that method a number of objections, more or 
less serious, are being raised and we must briefly consider them. 

It is said, in the first place, that any number of writers, from 
Aristotle down to Machiavelli, Montesquieu and the scholars of 
our own day, have used the historical method and that, though 
many of their incidental observations have been universally 
accepted as grounded upon fact and as truths scientifically 
acquired, no truly scientific system has as yet been found. 

But what we have already said of the positive method in 
general may be said of the historical method in particular: that 
to yield good results it has to be properly applied. Now before 
it can be properly applied an indispensable requirement is a wide 
and accurate knowledge of history, and that was not within the 
reach of Aristotle or Machiavelli or Montesquieu, or of any other 
writer who lived earlier than a century ago. Great syntheses 
can be essayed only after a vast body of facts have been accumu- 
lated and verified by the scientific method. Historical informa- 
tion was of course not lacking in centuries past, but it bore almost 
exclusively upon isolated periods. Down to the beginning of the 
last century, Greco-Roman civilization and the history of the 


modern European nations were known perhaps after a fashion, 
but as for the past of the rest of the world nothing was available 
except the vaguest of legends and very untrustworthy traditions. 
Even within the limited portions of history just mentioned, such 
knowledge as was available was far from perfect. The critical 
sense was still undeveloped. There was none of that patient 
documentary research, of that minute and attentive interpreta- 
tion of inscriptions, which has not only drawn the general lines 
of the acts of great historical characters more accurately and 
clearly but has revealed details of social custom and political and 
administrative organization in the different peoples which are of 
far greater interest to the study of political science than the 
personal feats of great warriors and rulers. 

Exact knowledge of physical geography, ethnology and com- 
parative philology, which shed light on the origins and blood ties 
of nations; prehistory, which has revealed the ancientness of the 
human species and of certain civilizations; the interpretation of 
hieroglyphic, cuneiform and ancient Hindu alphabets, which 
has unveiled the mysteries of Oriental civilizations now extinct 
all these were conquests of the nineteenth century. During the 
same century the mists that enveloped the history of China, 
Japan and other nations of the Far East were at least partially 
cleared away and the records of ancient American civilizations 
were in part discovered, in part more accurately studied. Finally 
during that century comparative statistical studies first came 
into general use, facilitating knowledge of conditions among 
faraway peoples. There can be no doubt about it: where the 
student of the social sciences could once only guess, he now has 
the means to observe and the instruments and the materials 
to demonstrate. 

Aristotle had but a very imperfect knowledge of the history 
of the great Asiatic monarchies. His information was probably 
limited to what Herodotus and Xenophon had written and to 
what he had been able to learn from Alexander's veterans, who 
had little understanding of the countries they conquered. The 
only political type he knew was the Greek city-state of the 
fourth and fifth centuries before our era. He could have 
learned little or nothing that was accurate about the rest of the 
world. Under those circumstances his Politics is an extra- 
ordinary intellectual feat, and his classification of governments 


into monarchies, aristocracies and democracies (a classification 
that might now be judged superficial and incomplete) was cer- 
tainly the very best that the human mind could contrive in his day. 
*The only model for the state that Machiavelli had directly 
before him was the Italian commune of the late fifteenth century, 
with its alternatives of tyranny and anarchy, where power was 
won or lost in a game of violence and trickery, with the winnings 
to him who was the better liar or delivered the last dagger thrust. 
We can understand how such a model must so have impressed his 
mind as to make him write his Prince* The fact that his informa- 
tion was confined almost exclusively to such Roman history as 
could be learned in his day and to the history of the great modern 
monarchies which had risen a little before his time explains his 
commentary on Livy, his histories and his letters. Montesquieu 
had no way of knowing the history of the Orient very much 
better than Aristotle, or that of Greece and Rome any more 
profoundly than Machiavelli. His wider knowledge of the 
institutions and history of Prance, England and Germany, 
coupled with his little knowledge of other countries, explains his 
theory that political liberty would be possible only in cold 

18. Another objection is made to the historical method. If 
it is no sounder than the above objection, it is certainly more 
alluring, so much so that in the eyes of many it may seem to be 
very serious, if not insuperable. It relates to the scant relia- 
bility of historical materials. It is commonly alleged that, for 
all of their many efforts, historians often fail to discover the 
truth: that it is often hard to determine with any exactness just 
how things which have happened in our own towns within the 
year actually came to pass; so that it is virtually impossible to 
obtain accounts that are worthy of belief when faraway times 
and places are concerned. No one forgets to point to contradic- 
tions between the different historians, to the lie they often give 
each other, to the passions by which they are commonly swayed 
the conclusion being that no certain inferences, no real science, 
can be derived from facts which are always very dubious, always 
very imperfectly known. 

It is not hard to answer such arguments. First of all, and 
incidentally, one might note that only when we have no interest 


in learning the truth, or no means of doing so, or when contrary 
interests are opposed to our doing so, do we fail to learn the 
exact truth about contemporary happenings. If no such 
obstacles are present, anyone who is willing to spend the tiiffe 
and the money required can always, by a more or less intensive 
inquiry, discover in the maze of varying versions, gossipings and 
hearsays just how a given event came to pass. As regards 
historical facts, the older they are the fainter becomes the 
clamor of the interests that aim to distort etact knowledge 
regarding them, and we take it for granted that the historian 
has patience enough and time enough to disentangle the truth 
concerning them. 

Of far greater importance is a second observation that we must 
make in this connection. The historical facts which are and 
always will be shrouded in the greatest uncertainty are anecdotal, 
biographical facts, facts which may involve the vanity or profit 
of a man, a nation, a party. It is chiefly in regard to such facts 
that the passions of a writer may be the cause, be it unwittingly, 
of error. Fortunately that type of fact is of scant interest to the 
student of the political sciences. It makes little difference to 
him whether a battle has been won through the merit of one 
commander or lost through the fault of another, or whether a 
political assassination was more or less justifiable. On the other 
hand, there are facts that concern the social type and organiza- 
tion of the various peoples and the various epochs; and it is about 
such facts, which are of the greater interest to us, that historians, 
spontaneously and without bias, often tell the truth. At any 
rate, more enlightening than the historians are the documents 

We shall probably never know just when Homer lived, in 
what city he was born, what episodes marked his life. These 
problems may have a certain interest for the critic or the scholar, 
who would like to know the most minute details about the life 
of the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey. They are of little 
interest to the political scientist, who is studying the psycho- 
logical and social world that the great poet describes, a world 
which, however much the bard's fancy may have embellished it, 
must actually have existed in an age but slightly anterior to his 
time. No one will ever know the breed of Alcibiades' dog, the 
color of Alexander's horse, what the exact faults and merits of 


Themistocles were, just how the speeches of Pericles were 
delivered, whether Agesilaus was lame in his right leg or his left. 
But it has been established beyond possibility of doubt that 
from the sixth to the fourth century before our era there existed 
in Hellas a certain type of political organization, the different 
varieties and peculiarities of which we already know well (and 
shall know even better as inscriptions and monuments that are 
gradually being found are studied), along with the details of its 
administrative, economic and military structure. 

No one, probably, will ever know anything exact about the 
life of Cheops, the Egyptian king of the Fourth Dynasty, in 
spite of the great pyramid that he ordered raised as his tomb. 
No one will ever possess the biography of Ramses II, of the 
Nineteenth Dynasty, though Pentaur's poem in celebration of his 
victories, real or imaginary, still survives. But no one will 
doubt that thirty or forty centuries before our era there existed 
in the valley of the Nile an organized, civilized, very populous 
society, and that the human spirit must have made prodigious 
efforts of patience and originality to raise it from barbarism. No 
one can doubt that that society, ever changing with the revolv- 
ing centuries, had religious beliefs and scientific information and, 
at times, an administrative and military organization so remark- 
able that it might almost be compared with those of the most 
highly civilized states of our own time. 1 

We may doubt whether Tiberius and Nero were the rascals 
that Tacitus said they were and whether the feeblemindedness 
of Claudius, the lasciviousness of Messalina, Caligula's passion 
for his horse, may not have been exaggerated. But we cannot 
deny that the Roman empire existed and that its emperors had a 
power to commit crimes and follies which would not have been 
tolerated in other epochs and in other types of political organi- 
zation. Nor can we doubt that in the early centuries of our 
era a great civilization, embodied politically in a great state, 
embraced the whole Mediterranean basin. We already know 
well, and shall know better and better, the legislation and the 
highly perfected financial, administrative and military organi- 
zation of that state. We may go so far as to assume that Sakya 

1 There were periods when public offices seem to have been awarded by exami- 
nations and when army officers were educated and trained in special military 


Muni was wholly a myth, that Jesus was never crucified or even 
that he never existed. But no one will ever deny the existence of 
Buddhism and Christianity, along with the dogmas and mor$l 
precepts on which they were founded; nor will anyone ever deny 
that since those two religions have spread abroad so widely and 
have so long endured they must satisfy emotions and psycho- 
logical needs that are widely prevalent in the human masses. 

19. In conclusion, then, while the anecdote and the bio- 
graphical detail may have had their influence on the history of 
nations, they can be of little help in discovering the great psycho- 
logical laws that are manifested in the lives of the nations. Such 
laws reveal their operation, rather, in administrative and 
judicial institutions, in religions, in all the moral and political 
customs of the various nations; and it is therefore upon these 
la'st categories of facts that we must concentrate our attention. 

With regard to such facts, it seems to us difficult and scarcely 
worth our while to establish very rigid standards of preference. 
Any detail of information, be it historical or contemporary, which 
relates to the institutions of a people that is organized politi- 
cally a people, in other words, that has consolidated in fairly 
populous masses and attained a certain degree of civilization, of 
whatever type may be very interesting. If any recommenda- 
tion may be made in the matter, it is this : that we avoid deriving 
all our observations from a group of political organisms that 
belong to the same historical period or present the same, or not 
widely differing, types of civilization. 

For example, if the only history we considered were that of the 
Greek states in the age of Pericles, we might be led to believe that 
the history of the world comes down to a struggle between 
Hellenism and barbarism, or between democracy and aristocracy 
(or better, between two oligarchies, the one of a more limited, 
the other of a more inclusive membership). If we thought only 
of Europe between the year 1500 and the year 1600, we might 
conclude that the whole movement of humanity during that 
period came down to a conflict between Catholicism and Protes- 
tantism, or between European and Mohammedan civilizations. 

In his First Principles Spencer tried to forearm students of the 
social sciences against what he called "perversions of judgment" 
or "bias," against certain habits of the human mind whereby 


the observer views the facts of society from a subjective, one- 
sided and limited point of view that is inevitably productive of 
erroneous results. Now to eliminate that pitfall it is not enough 
to warn anyone likely to fall into it that the pitfall exists. His 
mind has to be trained in such a way as to avoid it. Awareness 
of political prejudice, national prejudice, religious or anti- 
religious prejudice, does not prevent an individual, when he comes 
to a practical application of the Spencerian theories, from 
falling into one or more such prejudices if he has been reared in 
the belief that the adoption of a given form of government is 
enough to regenerate mankind, that his nation is the first in 
the universe, that his religion is the only true one or that 
human progress consists in destroying all religion. The real 
safeguard against that type of error lies in knowing how to lift 
one's judgment above the beliefs and opinions which are current 
in one's time or peculiar to the social or national type to which 
one belongs. That to go back to a point on which we have 
already touched comes with the study of many social facts, 
with a broad and thorough knowledge of history, not, certainly, 
of the history of a single period or a single nation but so far as 
we possibly can the history of mankind as a whole. 

0. In our day there prevails, or at least down to a very 
recent day there prevailed, in social research a tendency to give 
special attention to the simpler and more primitive political 
organizations. Some scholars go as far back as possible and 
scrupulously analyze animal societies, tracking down in bee- 
hives, anthills and the lairs of quadrupeds and quadrumanes 
the earliest origins of the social sentiments that find their com- 
plete expression in the great political organisms of men. The 
majority keep to the organizations of savage tribes, and all 
circumstances relating to such peoples are noted and recorded. 
The narratives of travelers who have lived among savages have 
so acquired special importance, and quotations from them fill 
modern volumes on sociology. 

We do not say that such studies are useless it is hard to find 
any application of the human intelligence that is completely 
unfruitful. But certainly they do not seem the best adapted to 
furnishing sound materials for the social sciences in general and 
for political science in particular. First of all, the narratives of 


travelers are as a rule more subjective, more contradictory, less 
trustworthy than the accounts of historians, and they are less 
subject to checking by documents and monuments. An indi- 
vidual who finds himself among people who belong to a very 
different civilization from the one to which he is accustomed 
generally views them from certain special points of view, and so 
may readily be misled. Herodotus was the greatest traveler of 
antiquity, and, as checking has now proved, he was a con- 
scientious and far from superficial observer. Nevertheless, he 
reported many things incorrectly, for the sole reason that he was 
steeped in a Greek civilization and so was poorly equipped to 
interpret certain phenomena of Near Eastern civilization. If 
one could check the reports of modern travelers on authentic 
documents, as has occasionally been possible in the case of 
Herodotus, we do not believe -that they would prove to be any 
more exact. If one is looking for light on the real social condi- 
tions of a given people, an authentic document such as the Laws 
of Manu, the fragments of the Twelve Tables or the Code of 
Rothari is worth much more than the reports of any number of 
modern travelers. We understand, however, that a traveler's 
account may prove very useful in providing illustration and com- 
ment for such documents. In the case of primitive peoples, of 
course, no documents whatever are available. 

In the second place, social facts can be gathered only in a 
human society, and by society we mean not a small group of 
a few families but what is commonly called a nation, a people, a 
state. Psychological social forces cannot develop, and cannot 
find scope, except in large political organisms, in aggregates, that 
is, where numerous groups of human beings are brought together 
in a moral and political union. In the primitive group, in the 
tribe of fifty or a hundred individuals, the political problem 
hardly exists, and therefore cannot be studied. 

Monarchy, for example, is easy enough to understand in a 
small tribe where the strongest and craftiest male readily imposes 
his will on a handful of comrades. But we must be in possession 
of very different elements before we can account for the estab- 
lishment of such an institution in a society of millions of indi- 
viduals, where a single man alone cannot force himself by physical 
strength upon all the others combined, and where, however 
crafty and energetic a man may be, he will readily find in the 


masses about him hundreds of individuals who, at least poten- 
tially, are as talented and resourceful as he. So again we can 
easily see how a few dozen or even a few hundred individuals 
living together, and holding apart in moral if not material isola- 
tion from the rest of the world, should come to present a definite 
oneness of mental type and to have a lively sense of tribe and 
family. But to understand that is of little help when we come 
to explaining why a single moral type, an intense national feeling, 
should exist in human aggregations of tens and sometimes as 
in the case of Russia and China of hundreds of millions of 
persons, where individuals pass their whole lives far removed 
from most of their fellows, are for the most part cut off from any 
personal intercourse with them, and in their various groups face 
widely differing conditions of material living. 

The study of minute political units is said to be useful because 
they show in embryo all the social organs that gradually develop 
in larger and more advanced societies; and it is supposed to be 
much easier to study the manner of working of such organs when 
they are in their rudimentary forms than when they have grown 
more complex. But the comparing, now so frequent, of the 
organization of human societies with organizations of individual 
animal societies has never seemed to us less apt and less 
instructive than in this instance. It can easily be turned against 
the thesis in favor of which it was invoked. We do not believe 
that any zoologist would try to solve problems of anatomy and 
physiology in the warm-blooded vertebrates by studying the 
lower animals. It was not, certainly, from the observation of 
amoebas and polyps that the circulation of the blood was dis- 
covered and that the functions of the heart, brain and lungs in 
man and the other higher animals were finally determined. 


Among the constant facts and tendencies that are to be 
found in all political organisms, one is so obvious that it is appar- 
ent to the most casual eye. In all societies from societies that 
are very meagerly developed and have barely attained the dawn- 
ings of civilization, down to the most advanced and powerful 
societies two classes of people appear a class that rules and a 
class that is ruled. The first class, always the less numerous, 
performs all political functions, monopolizes power and enjoys 
the advantages that power brings, whereas the second, the more 
numerous class, is directed and controlled by the first; in a manner 
that is now more or less legal, now more or less arbitrary and 
violent, and supplies the first, in appearance at least, with 
material means of subsistence and with the instrumentalities 
that are essential to the vitality of the political organism. 

In practical life we all recognize the existence of this ruling 
class (or political class, as we have elsewhere chosen to define it). 1 
We all know that, in our own country, whichever it may be, 
the management of public affairs is in the hands of a minority of 
influential persons, to which management, willingly or unwill- 
ingly, the majority defer. We know that the same thing goes 
on in neighboring countries, and in fact we should be put to it to 
conceive of a real world otherwise organized a world in which 
all men would be directly subject to a single person without 
relationships of superiority or subordination, or in which all men 
would share equally in the direction of political affairs. If we 
reason otherwise in theory, that is due partly to inveterate 
habits that we follow in our thinking and partly to the exagger- 
ated importance that we attach to two political facts that loom 
far larger in appearance than they are in reality. 

The first of these facts and one has only to open one's eyes to 
see it is that in every political organism there is one individual 

1 Mosca, Teorica dei governi e governo parlamentare, chap. I. 



who is chief among the leaders of the ruling class as a whole 
and stands, as we say, at the helm of the state. That person is 
not always the person who holds supreme power according to law. 
At times, alongside of the hereditary king or emperor there is a 
prime minister or a major-domo who wields an actual power that 
is greater than the sovereign's. At other times, in place of the 
elected president the influential politician who has procured the 
president's election will govern. Under special circumstances 
there may be, instead of a single person, two or three who 
discharge the functions of supreme control. , 

The second fact, too, is readily discernible. Whatever the 
type of political organization, pressures arising from the dis- 
content of the masses who are governed, from the passions by 
which they are swayed, exert a certain amount of influence 
on the policies of the ruling, the political, class. 

But the man who is at the head of the state would certainly 
not be able to govern without the support of a numerous class 
to enforce respect for his orders and to have them carried out; 
and granting that he can make one individual, or indeed many 
individuals, in the ruling class feel the weight of his power, he 
certainly cannot be at odds with the class as a whole or do away 
with it. Even if that were possible, he would at once be forced 
to create another class, without the support of which action on 
his part would be completely paralyzed. On the other hand, 
granting that the discontent of the masses might succeed in 
deposing a ruling class, inevitably, as we shall later show, there 
would have to be another organized minority within the masses 
themselves to discharge the functions of a ruling class. Other- 
wise all organization, and the whole social structure, would be 

. From the point of view of scientific research the real 
superiority of the concept of the ruling, or political, class lies in 
the fact that the varying structure of ruling classes has a pre- 
ponderant importance in determining the political type, and 
also the level of civilization, of the different peoples. According 
to a manner of classifying forms of government that is still in 
vogue, Turkey and Russia were both, up to a few years ago, 
absolute monarchies, England and Italy were constitutional, or 
limited, monarchies, and France and the United States were 


classed as republics. The classification was based on the fact 
that, in the first two countries mentioned, headship in the state 
was hereditary and the chief was nominally omnipotent; in the 
second two, his office is hereditary but his powers and preroga- 
tives are limited; in the last two, he is elected. , 

That classification is obviously superficial. Absolutisms 
though they were, there was little in common between the man- 
ners in which Russia and Turkey were managed politically, the 
levels of civilization in the two countries and the organization of 
their ruling classes being vastly different. On the same basis, the 
regime in Italy, a monarchy, is much more similar to the regime 
in France, a republic, than it is to the regime in England, also a 
monarchy; and there are important differences between the 
political organizations of the United States and France, though 
both countries are republics. 

As we have already suggested, ingrained habits of thinking 
have long stood, as they still stand, in the way of scientific 
progress in this matter. The classification mentioned above, 
which divides governments into absolute monarchies, limited 
monarchies and republics, was devised by Montesquieu and was 
intended to replace the classical categories of Aristotle, who 
divided governments into monarchies, aristocracies and democ- 
racies. What Aristotle called a democracy was simply an 
aristocracy of fairly broad membership. Aristotle himself was 
in a position to observe that in every Greek state, whether 
aristocratic or democratic, there was always one person or more 
who had a preponderant influence. Between the day of Polyb- 
ius and the day of Montesquieu, many writers perfected Aris- 
totle's classification by introducing into it the concept of "mixed " 
governments. Later on the modern democratic theory, which 
had its source in Rousseau, took its stand upon the concept that 
the majority of the citizens in any state can participate, and in 
fact ought to participate, in its political life, and the doctrine of 
popular sovereignty still holds sway over many minds in spite 
of the fact that modern scholarship is making it increasingly 
clear that democratic, monarchical and aristocratic principles 
function side by side in every political organism. We shall not 
stop to refute this democratic theory here, since that is the task 
of this work as a whole. Besides, it would be hard to destroy in 
a few pages a whole system of ideas that has become firmly rooted 


in the human mind. As Las Casas aptly wrote in his life of 
Christopher Columbus^ it is often much harder to unlearn than 
to learn. 

3. We think it may be desirable, nevertheless, to reply at this 
point to an objection which might very readily be made to our 
point of view. If it is easy to understand that a single individual 
cannot command a group without finding within the group a 
minority to support him, it is rather difficult to grant, as a con- 
stant and natural fact, that minorities rule majorities, rather 
than majorities minorities. But that is one of the points so 
numerous in all the other sciences where the first impression 
one has of things is contrary to what they are in reality. In 
reality the dominion of an organized minority, obeying a single 
impulse, over the unorganized majority is inevitable. The power 
of any minority is irresistible as against each single individual in 
the majority, who stands alone before the totality of the organ- 
ized minority. At the same time, the minority is organized for 
the very reason that it is a minority. A hundred men acting 
uniformly in concert, with a common understanding, will triumph 
over a thousand men who are not in accord and can therefore be 
dealt with one by one. Meanwhile it will be easier for the 
former to act in concert and have a mutual understanding simply 
because they are a hundred and not a thousand.^It follows that 
the larger the political community, the smaller will the proportion 
of the governing minority to the governed majority be, and the 
more difficult will it be for the majority to organize for reaction 
against the minority?) 

(^However, in addition to the great advantage accruing to them 
from the fact of being organized, ruling minorities are usually so 
constituted that the individuals who make them up are dis- 
tinguished from the mass of the governed by qualities that give 
them a certain material, intellectual or even moral superiority; 
or else they are the heirs of individuals who possessed such 
qualities. In other words, members of a ruling minority regu- 
larly have some attribute, real or apparent, which is highly 
esteemed and very influential in the society in which they live. 

4. In primitive societies that are still in the early stages of 
organization, military valor is the quality that most readily 


opens access to the ruling, or political, classr. In societies of 
advanced civilization, war is the exceptional condition. It may 
be regarded as virtually normal in societies that are in the initial 
stages of their development; and the individuals who show the 
greatest ability in war easily gain supremacy over their fellows 
the bravest become chiefs. The fact is constant, but the forms 
it may assume, in one set of circumstances or another, vary 

As a rule the dominance of a warrior class over a peaceful 
multitude is attributed to a superposition of races, to the con- 
quest of a relatively unwarlike group by an aggressive one. 
Sometimes that is actually the case we have examples in India 
after the Aryan invasions, in the Roman Empire after the 
Germanic invasions and in Mexico after the Aztec conquest. 
But more often, under certain social conditions, we note the rise 
of a warlike ruling class in places where there is absolutely 
no trace of a foreign conquest. As long as a horde lives exclu- 
sively by the chase, all individuals can easily become warriors. 
There will of course be leaders who will rule over the tribe, but 
we will not find a warrior class rising to exploit, and at the same 
time to protect, another class that is devoted to peaceful pursuits. 
As the tribe emerges from the hunting stage and enters the 
agricultural and pastoral stage, then, along with an enormous 
increase in population and a greater stability in the means of 
exerting social influence, a more or less clean-cut division into two 
classes will take place, one class being devoted exclusively to 
agriculture, the other class to war. In this event, it is inevitable 
that the warrior class should little by little acquire such ascend- 
a^jicy over the other as to be able to oppress it with impunity. 
5 Poland offers a characteristic example of the gradual meta- 
morphosis of a warrior class into an absolutely dominant class. 
Originally the Poles had the same organization by rural villages 
as prevailed among all the Slavic peoples. There was no dis- 
tinction between fighters and farmers in other words, between 
nobles and peasants. But after the Poles came to settle on the 
broad plains that are watered by the Vistula and the Niemen, 
agriculture began to develop among them. However, the neces- 
sity of fighting with warlike neighbors continued, so that the 
tribal chiefs, or voivodes, gathered about themselves a certain 
number of picked men whose special occupation was the bearing 


of arms. These warriors were distributed among the various 
rural communities. They were exempt from agricultural duties, 
yet they received their share of the produce of the soil, along 
with the other members of the community. In early days their 
position was not considered very desirable, and country dwellers 
sometimes waived exemption from agricultural labor in order to 
avoid going to war. But gradually as this order of things grew 
stabilized, as one class became habituated to the practice of 
arms and military organization while the other hardened to the 
use of the plow and the spade, the warriors became nobles and 
masters, and the peasants, once companions and brothers, 
became villeins and serfs. Little by little the warrior lords 
increased their demands to the point where the share they took 
as members of the community came to include the community's 
whole produce minus what was absolutely necessary for sub- 
sistence on the part of the cultivators; and when the latter 
tried to escape such abuses they were constrained by force to 
stay bound to the soil, their situation taking on all the charac- 
teristics of serfdom pure and simple, j 

In the course of this evolution, around the year 1333, King 
Casimir the Great tried vainly to curb the overbearing insolence 
of the warriors. When peasants came to complain of the 
nobles, he contented himself with asking whether they had no 
sticks and stones. Some generations later, in 1537, the nobility 
forced all tradesmen in the cities to sell such real estate as they 
owned, and landed property became a prerogative of nobles only. 
At the same time the nobility exerted pressure upon the king to 
open negotiations with Rome, to the end that thenceforward only 
nobles should be admitted to holy orders in Poland. That barred 
townsmen and peasants almost completely from honorific posi- 
tions and stripped them of any social importance whatever. 1 

We find a parallel development in Russia. There the warriors 
who formed the druzhina, or escort, of the old knezes (princes 
descended from Rurik) also received a share in the produce of the 
mirs (rural peasant communities) for their livelihood. Little by 
little this share was increased. Since land abounded and workers 
were scarce, the peasants often had an eye to their advantage and 
moved about. At the end of the sixteenth century, accordingly, 

1 Mickiewicz, Les Slaves, vol. I, legon XXIV, pp. 876-880; Histoire populaire 
de Pologne, chaps. I-II. 


the czar Boris Godunov empowered the nobles to hold peasants 
to their lands by force, so establishing serfdom. However, armed 
forces in Russia were never composed exclusively of nobles. 
The muzhiks, or peasants, went to war as common soldiers under 
the droujina. As early as the sixteenth century, Ivan the Terri- 
ble established the order of strelitzes which amounted practically 
to a standing army, and which lasted until Peter the Great 
replaced it with regiments organized along western European 
lines. In those regiments members of the old druzhina, with an 
intermixture of foreigners, became officers, while the muzhiks 
provided the entire contingent of privates. 1 

(Among peoples that have recently entered the agricultural 
stage and are relatively civilized, it is the unvarying fact that 
the strictly military class is the political, or ruling, class. Some- 
times the bearing of arms is reserved exclusively to that class, 
as happened in India and Poland. More often the members of 
the governed class are on occasion enrolled always, however, 
as common soldiers and in the less respected divisions. So 
in Greece, during the war with the Medes, the citizens belonging 
to the richer and more influential classes formed the picked corps 
(the cavalry and the hoplites), the less wealthy fought as peltasts 
or as slingers, while the slaves, that is the laboring masses, 
were almost entirely barred from military service. We find 
analogous arrangements in republican Rome, down to the period 
of the Punic Wars and even as late as the day of Marius; in 
Latin and Germanic Europe during the Middle Ages; in Russia, 
as just explained, and among many other peoples. Caesar notes 
repeatedly that in his time the backbone of the Gallic armies was 
formed by cavalrymen recruited from the nobility. The Aedui, 
for example, could not hold out against Ariovistus after the 
flower of their cavalry had been killed in battle. 

5. Everywhere in Russia and Poland, in India and medieval 
Europe the ruling warrior classes acquire almost exclusive 
ownership of the land. Land, as we have seen, is the chief source 
of production and wealth in countries that are not very far 
advanced in civilization. But as civilization progresses, revenue 
from land increases proportionately. With the growth of 
population there is, at least in certain periods, an increase in 

1 Leroy-Beaulieu, L* Empire dea tzars et Us Rusws, vol. I, pp. 838 f. 


rent, in the Ricardian sense of the term, largely because great 
centers of consumption arise such at all times have been the 
great capitals and other large cities, ancient and modern. Even- 
tually, if other circumstances permit, a very important social 
transformation occurs. Wealth rather than military valor comes 
to be the characteristic f eature of the dominant class: the people 
who rule are the rich rather than the brave. 

f The condition that in the main is required for this transforma- 
tion is that social organization shall have concentrated and 
become perfected to such an extent that the protection offered 
by public authority is considerably more effective than the 
protection offered by private force. In other words, private 
property must be so well protected by the practical and real 
efficacy of the laws as to render the power of the proprietor 
himself superfluous. This comes about through a series of 
gradual alterations in the social structure whereby a type of 
political organization, which we shall call the "feudal state," is 
transformed into an essentially different type, which we shall 
term the "bureaucratic state." We are to discuss these types 
at some length hereafter, but we may say at once that the 
evolution here referred to is as a rule greatly facilitated by prog- 
ress in pacific manners and customs and by certain moral habits 
yhich societies contract as civilization advances!. 

Once this transformation has taken place, wealth produces 
political power just as political power has been producing wealth. 
In a society already somewhat mature where, therefore, indi- 
vidual power is curbed by the collective power if the powerful 
are as a rule the rich, to be rich is to become powerful. And, in 
truth, when fighting with the mailed fist is prohibited whereas 
fighting with pounds and pence is sanctioned, the better posts 
are inevitably won by those who are better supplied with pounds 
and pence. 

There are, to be sure, states of a very high level of civilization 
which in theory are organized on the basis of moral principles of 
such a character that they seem to preclude this overbearing 
assertiveness on the part of wealth. But this is a case and there 
are many such where theoretical principles can have no more 
than a limited application in real life. In the United States all 
powers flow directly or indirectly from popular elections, and 
suffrage is equal for all men and women in all the states of the 


Union. What is more, democracy prevails not only in institu- 
tions but to a certain extent also in morals. The rich ordinarily 
feel a certain aversion to entering public life, and the poor a 
certain aversion to choosing the rich for elective office. But that 
does not prevent a rich man from being more influential than a 
poor man, since he can use pressure upon the politicians who 
control public administration. It does not prevent elections 
from being carried on to the music of clinking dollars. It does 
not prevent whole legislatures and considerable numbers of 
national congressmen from feeling the influence of powerful 
corporations and great financiers. 1 

In China, too, down to a few years ago, though the govern- 
ment had not accepted the principle of popular elections, it was 
organized on an essentially equalitarian basis. Academic 
degrees gave access to public office, and degrees were conferred 
by examination without any apparent regard for family or 
wealth. According to some writers, only barbers and certain 
classes of boatmen, together with their children, were barred 
from competing for the various grades of the mandarinate. 2 
But though the moneyed class in China was less numerous, less 
wealthy, less powerful than the moneyed class in the United 
States is at present, it was none the less able to modify the 
scrupulous application of this system to a very considerable 
extent. Not only was the indulgence of examiners often bought 
with money. The government itself sometimes sold the various 
academic degrees and allowed ignorant persons, often from the 
lowest social strata, to hold public office. 3 

In all countries of the world those other agencies for exerting 
social influence personal publicity, good education, specialized 
training, high rank in church, public administration, and army 
are always readier of access to the rich than to the poor. The 
rich invariably have a considerably shorter road to travel than 
the poor, to say nothing of the fact that the stretch of road that 
the rich spared is often the roughest and most difficult. 

1 Jannet, Le istituzioni politiche e sociali degli Stati Uniti d > America t part II f 
chap. X f . 

2 Rousset, A travers la Chine. 

8 Mas y Sans, La, Chine d Us puissances ckrMiennes, vol. II, pp f 332-334; 
Hue, U Empire chinois. 


6* In societies in which religious beliefs are strong and min- 
isters of the faith form a special class a priestly aristocracy almost 
always arises and gains possession of a more or less important 
share of the wealth and the political power. Conspicuous 
examples of that situation would be ancient Egypt (during cer- 
tain periods), Brahman India and medieval Europe. Often- 
times the priests not only perform religious functions. They 
possess legal and scientific knowledge and constitute the class of 
highest intellectual culture. Consciously or unconsciously, 
priestly hierarchies often show a tendency to monopolize learning 
and hamper the dissemination of the methods and procedures that 
make the acquisition of knowledge possible and easy.) To that 
tendency may have been due, in part at least, the painfully slow 
diffusion of the demotic alphabet in ancient Egypt, though that 
alphabet was infinitely more simple than the hieroglyphic script. 
The Druids in Gaul were acquainted with the Greek alphabet but 
would not permit their rich store of*sacred literature to be 
written down, requiring their pupils to commit it to memory at 
the cost of untold effort. ; To the same outlook may be attrib- 
uted the stubborn and frequent use of dead languages that we 
find in ancient Chaldea, in India, and in medieval Europe. 
Sometimes, as was the case in India, lower classes have been 
explicitly forbidden to acquire knowledge of sacred books.) 

Specialized knowledge and really scientific culture/ purged 
of any sacred or religious aura, become important political forces 
only in a highly advanced stage of civilization, and only then do 
they give access to membership in the ruling class to those who 
possess them] But in this case too, it is not so much learning in 
itself that has political value as the practical applications that 
may be made of learning to the profit of the public or the state. 
Sometimes all that is required is mere possession of the mechani- 
cal processes that are indispensable to the acquisition of a higher 
culture. This may be due to the fact that on such a basis it is 
easier to ascertain and measure the skill which a candidate has 
been able to acquire it is easier to "mark" or grade him. So in 
certain periods in ancient Egypt the profession of scribe was a 
road to public office and power, perhaps because to have learned 
the hieroglyphic script was proof of long and patient study. In 
modern China, again, learning the numberless characters in 


Chinese script has formed the basis of the mandarin's education. 1 
In present-day Europe and America the class that applies the 
findings of modern science to war, public administration, public 
works and public sanitation holds a fairly important position, 
both socially and politically, and in our western world, as in 
ancient Rome, an altogether privileged position is held by lawyers. 
They know the complicated legislation that arises in all peoples 
of long-standing civilization, and they become especially powerful 
if their knowledge of law is coupled with the type of eloquence 
that chances to have a strong appeal to the taste of their 

There are examples in abundance where we see that long- 
standing practice in directing the military and civil organization 
of a community creates and develops in the higher reaches of the 
ruling class a real art of governing which is something better than 
crude empiricism and better than anything that mere individual 
experience could suggest. In such circumstances aristocracies of 
functionaries arise, such as the Roman senate, the Venetian 
nobility and to a certain extent the English aristocracy. 
Those bodies all stirred John Stuart Mill to admiration 
and certainly they all three developed governments that were 
distinguished for carefully considered policies and for great 
steadfastness and sagacity in carrying them out. This art of 
governing is not political science, though it has, at one time or 
another, anticipated applications of a number of the postulates 
of political science. However, even if the art of governing has 
now and again enjoyed prestige with certain classes of persons 
who have long held possession of political functions, knowledge 
of it has i^ever served as an ordinary criterion for admitting to 
public offices persons who were barred from them by social station. 
The degree of mastery of the art of governing that a person 
possesses is, moreover, apart from exceptional cases, a very diffi- 
cult thing to determine if the person has given no practical 
demonstration that he possesses it. 

7 \In some countries we find hereditary castes. In such cases 
the governing class is explicitly restricted to a given number of 

1 This was true up to a few years ago, the examination of a mandarin covering 
only literary and historical studies as the Chinese understood such studies, of 


families, and birth is the one criterion that determines entry into 
the class or exclusion from it. Examples are exceedingly com- 
mon. There is practically no country of long-standing civiliza- 
tion that has not had a hereditary aristocracy at one period or 
another in its history. We find hereditary nobilities during 
certain periods in China and ancient Egypt, in India, in Greece 
before the wars with the Medes, in ancient Rome, among the 
Slavs, among the Latins and Germans of the Middle Ages, in 
Mexico at the time of the Discovery and in Japan down to a 
few years ago. / 

In this connection two preliminary observations are in point. 
In the first place, all ruling classes tend to become hereditary 
in fact if not in law. All political forces seem to possess a 
quality that in physics used to be called the force of inertia. 
They have a tendency, that is, to remain at the point and in the 
state in which they find themselves. Wealth and military 
valor are easily maintained in certain families by moral tradi- 
tion and by heredity. Qualification for important office the 
habit of, and to an extent the capacity for, dealing with affairs 
of consequence is much more readily acquired when one has 
had a certain familiarity with them from childhood. Even when 
academic degrees, scientific training, special aptitudes as tested 
by examinations and competitions, open the way to public office, 
there is no eliminating that special advantage in favor of certain 
individuals which the French call the advantage of positions 
d6j& prises. In actual fact, though examinations and com- 
petitions may theoretically be open to all, the majority never 
have the resources for meeting the expense of long preparation, 
and many others are without the connections and kinships that 
set an individual promptly on the right road, enabling him to 
avoid the gropings and blunders that are inevitable when one 
enters an unfamiliar environment without any guidance or 

; The democratic principle of election by broad-based suffrage 
would seem at first glance to be in conflict with the tendency 
toward stability which, according to our theory, ruling classes 
show. But it must be noted that candidates who are successful 
in democratic elections are almost always the ones who possess 
the political forces above enumerated, which are very often 
hereditary. In the English, French and Italian parliaments we 


frequently see the sons, grandsons, brothers, nephews and sons- 
ii^-law of members and deputies, ex-members and ex-deputies.! 

f In the second place, when we see a hereditary caste established 
in a country and monopolizing political power, we may be sure 
that such a status de jure was preceded by a similar status de 
facto. Before proclaiming their exclusive and hereditary right 
to power the families or castes in question must have held the 
scepter of command in a firm grasp, completely monopolizing all 
the political forces of that country at that period. Otherwise 
such a claim on their part would only have aroused the bitterest 
protests and provoked the bitterest struggles. 

Hereditary aristocracies often come to vaunt supernatural 
origins, or at least origins different from, and superior to, those of 
the governed classes. Such claims are explained by a highly 
significant social fact, namely that every governing class tends 
to justify its actual exercise of power by resting it on some 
universal moral principle. This same sort of claim has come for- 
ward in our time in scientific trappings. A number of writers, 
developing and amplifying Darwin's theories, contend that upper 
classes represent a higher level in social evolution and are there- 
fore superior to lower classes by organic structure. Gumplowicz 
we have already quoted. That writer goes to the point of main- 
taining that the divisions of populations into trade groups and 
professional classes in modern civilized countries are based on 
ethnological heterogeneousness. 1 

Now history very definitely shows the special abilities as well 
as the special defects both very marked which have been 
displayed by aristocracies that have either remained absolutely 
closed or have made entry into their circles difficult. The ancient 
Roman patriciate and the English and German nobilities of 
modern times give a ready idea of the type we refer to. Yet in 
dealing with this fact, and with the theories that tend to exag- 
gerate its significance, we can always raise the same objection 
that the individuals who belong to the aristocracies in question 
owe their special qualities not so much to the blood that flows 
in their veins as to their very particular upbringing, which has 
brought out certain intellectual and moral tendencies in them in 
preference to others. 

1 Der Rassenkampf. This notion transpires from Gumplowicz's whole volume. 
It is explicitly formulated in book II, chap. XXXIII. 


Among all the factors that figure in social superiority, intel- 
lectual superiority is the one with which heredity has least to do. 
The children of men of highest mentality often have very medio- 
cre talents. That is why hereditary aristocracies have" never 
defended their rule on the basis of intellectual superiority alone, but 
rather on the basis of their superiorities in character and wealth. 

I It is argued, in rebuttal, that education and environment may 
serve to explain superiorities in strictly intellectual capacities 
but not differences of a moral order will power, courage, pride, 
energy. The truth is that social position, family tradition, the 
habits of the class in which we live, contribute more than is 
commonly supposed to the greater or lesser development of the 
qualities mentioned. If we carefully observe individuals who 
have changed their social status, whether for better or for worse, 
and who consequently find themselves in environments different 
from the ones they have been accustomed to, it is apparent that 
their intellectual capacities are much less sensibly affected than 
their moral ones. Apart from a greater breadth of view that 
education and experience bring to anyone who is not altogether 
stupid, every individual, whether he remains a mere clerk or 
becomes a minister of state, whether he reaches the rank of 
sergeant or the rank of general, whether he is a millionaire or a 
beggar, abides inevitably on the intellectual level on which 
nature has placed him. And yet with changes of social status and 
wealth the proud man often becomes humble, servility changes 
to arrogance, an honest nature learns to lie, or at least to dis- 
semble, under pressure of need, while the man who has an 
ingrained habit of lying and bluffing makes himself over and puts 
on an outward semblance at least of honesty and firmness of 
character. It is true, of course, that a man fallen from high 
estate often acquires powers of resignation, self-denial and 
resourcefulness, just as one who rises in the world sometimes gains 
in sentiments of justice and fairness. In short, whether a man 
change for the better or for the worse, he has to be exceptionally 
level-headed if he is to change his social status very appreciably 
and still keep his character unaltered. Mirabeau remarked that, 
for any man, any great climb on the social ladder produces a 
crisis that cures the ills he has and creates new ones that he never 
had before. 1 

1 Correspondance entre le comte de Mirabeau et le comte deLa Marck, vol. II, p. 228, 


Courage in battle, impetuousness in attack, endurance in 
resistance such are the qualities that have long and often been 
vaunted as a monopoly of the higher classes. Certainly there 
may be vast natural and if we may say so innate differences 
between one individual and another in these respects; but more 
than anything else traditions and environmental influences are 
the things that keep them high, low or just average, in any large 
group of human beings. We generally become indifferent to 
danger or, perhaps better, to a given type of danger, when the 
persons with whom we daily live speak of it with indifference and 
remain cool and imperturbable before it. Many mountaineers or 
sailors are by nature timid men, yet they face unmoved, the ones 
the dangers of the precipice, the others the perils of the storm at 
sea. So peoples and classes that are accustomed to warfare 
maintain military virtues at the highest pitch. 

So true is this that even peoples and social classes which are 
ordinarily unaccustomed to arms acquire the military virtues 
rapidly when the individuals who compose them are made 
members of organizations in which courage and daring are tradi- 
tional, when if one may venture the metaphor they are cast 
into human crucibles that are heavily charged with the senti- 
ments that are to be infused into their fiber. Mohammed II 
recruited his terrible Janizaries in the main from boys who had 
been kidnapped among the degenerate Greeks of Byzantium. 
The much despised Egyptian fellah, unused for long centuries to 
war and accustomed to remaining meek and helpless under the 
lash of the oppressor, became a good soldier when Mehemet Ali 
placed him in Turkish or Albanian regiments. The French 
nobility has always enjoyed a reputation for brilliant valor, but 
down to the end of the eighteenth century that quality was not 
credited in anything like the same degree to the French bour- 
geoisie. However, the wars of the Republic and the Empire 
amply proved that nature had been uniformly lavish in her 
endowments of courage upon all the inhabitants of France. 
Proletariat and bourgeoisie both furnished good soldiers and, 
what is more, excellent officers, though talent for command had 
been considered an exclusive prerogative of the nobility. Gum- 
plowicz's theory that differentiation in social classes depends 
very largely on ethnological antecedents requires proof at the 
very least. Many facts to the contrary readily occur to 


among others the obvious fact that branches of the same family 
often belong to widely different social classes. 

8. Finally, if we were to keep to the idea of those who maintain 
the exclusive influence of the hereditary principle in the formation 
of ruling classes, we should be carried to a conclusion somewhat 
like the one to which we were carried by the evolutionary princi- 
ple: The political history of mankind ought to be much simpler 
than it is. If the ruling class really belonged to a different race, 
or if the qualities that fit it for dominion were transmitted 
primarily by organic heredity, it is difficult to see how, once the 
class was formed, it could decline and lose its power. The 
peculiar qualities of a race are exceedingly tenacious. Keeping 
to the evolutionary theory, acquired capacities in the parents are 
inborn in their children and, as generation succeeds generation, 
are progressively accentuated. The descendants of rulers, 
therefore, ought to become better and better fitted to rule, and 
the other clashes ought to see their chances of challenging or 
supplanting them become more and more remote. Now the 
most commonplace experience suffices to assure one that things 
do not go in that way at all. 

What we see is that as soon as there is a shift in the balance 
of political forces when, that is, a need is felt that capacities 
different from the old should assert themselves in the manage- 
ment of the state, when the old capacities, therefore, lose some of 
their importance or changes in their distribution occur then the 
manner in which the ruling class is constituted changes also. If 
a new source of wealth develops in a society, if the practical 
importance of knowledge grows, if an old religion declines or a 
new one is born, if a new current of ideas spreads, then, simultane- 
ously, far-reaching dislocations occur in the ruling class. One 
might say, indeed, that the whole history of civilized mankind 
comes down to a conflict between the tendency of dominant 
elements to monopolize political power and transmit possession of 
it by inheritance, and the tendency toward a dislocation of old 
forces and an insurgence of new forces; and this conflict produces 
an unending ferment of endosmosis and exosmosis between the 
upper classes and certain portions of the lower, f Buling classes 
decline inevitably when they cease to find scope f oi* the capacities 
through which they rose to power, when they can no longer 


render the social services which they once rendered, or when their 
talents and the services they render lose in importance in the 
social environment in which they live. So the Roman aristocracy 
declined when it was no longer the exclusive source of higher 
officers for the army, of administrators for the commonwealth, 
of governors for the provinces. So the Venetian aristocracy 
declined when its nobles ceased to command the galleys and no 
longer passed the greater part of their lives in sailing the seas and 
in trading and fighting. 

In inorganic nature we have the example of our air, in which a 
tendency to immobility produced by the force of inertia is 
continuously in conflict with a tendency to shift about as the 
result of inequalities in the distribution of heat. The two 
tendencies, prevailing by turn in various regions on our planet, 
produce now calm, now wind and storm. In much the same way 
in human societies there prevails now the tendency that produces 
closed, stationary, crystallized ruling classes, now the tendency 
that results in a more or less rapid renovation of ruling classes. 
I The Oriental societies which we consider stationary have in 
reality not always been so, for otherwise, as we have already 
pointed out, they could not have made the advances in civiliza- 
tion of which they have left irrefutable evidence. It is much 
more accurate to say that we came to know them at a time when 
their political forces and their political classes were in a period of 
crystallization. The same thing occurs in what we commonly 
call " aging" societies, where religious beliefs, scientific knowledge, 
methods of producing and distributing wealth have for centuries 
undergone no radical alteration and have not been disturbed in 
their everyday course by infiltrations of foreign elements, mate- 
rial or intellectual. In such societies political forces are always 
the same, and the class that holds possession of them holds a 
power that is undisputed. Power is therefore perpetuated in 
certain families, and the inclination to immobility becomes 
general through all the various strata in that society. ' 
f So in India we see the caste system become thoroughly 
entrenched after the suppression of Buddhism. The Greeks 
found hereditary castes in ancient Egypt, but we know that in 
the periods of greatness and renaissance in Egyptian civilization 
political office and social status were not hereditary. We possess 
an Egyptian document that summarizes the life of a high army 


officer who lived during th6 period of the expulsion of the Hyksos, 
He had begun his career as a simple soldier. Other documents 
show cases in which the same individual served successively in 
army, civil administration and priesthood. 1 

[The best-known and perhaps the most important example of 
a society tending toward crystallization is the period in Roman 
history that used to be called the Low Empire. There, after 
several centuries of almost complete social immobility, a division 
between two classes grew sharper and sharper, the one made up of 
great landowners and high officials, the other made up of slaves, 
farmers and urban plebeians. What is even more striking, public 
office and social position became hereditary by custom before 
they became hereditary by law, and the trend was rapidly 
generalized during the period mentioned. 2 

On the other hand it may happen in the history of a nation that 
commerce with foreign peoples, forced emigrations, discoveries, 
wars, create new poverty and new wealth, disseminate knowledge 
of things that were previously unknown or cause infiltrations of 
new moral, intellectual and religious currents. Or again as a 
result of such infiltrations or through a slow process of inner 
growth, or from both causes it may happen that a new learning 
arises, or that certain elements of an old, long forgotten learning 
return to favor so that new ideas and new beliefs come to the 
fore and upset the intellectual habits on which the obedience of 
the masses has been founded. The ruling class may also be 
vanquished and destroyed in whole or in part by foreign invasions, 
or, when the circumstances just mentioned arise, it may be driven 
from power by the advent of new social elements who are strong 
in fresh political forces. Then, naturally, there comes a period 
of renovation, or, if one prefer, of revolution, during which indi- 
vidual energies have free play and certain individuals, more 
passionate, more energetic, more intrepid or merely shrewder 
than others, force their way from the bottom of the social ladder 
to the topmost rungs. 

Once such a movement has set in, it cannot be stopped imme- 
diately. The example of individuals who have started from 
nowhere and reached prominent positions fires new ambitions, 

1 Lenormant, Maspero, Brugsck 

2 Marquardt, Manuel des antiquiUs romaines; Fustel de Coulanges, Nouvettes 
recherches sur quelquea probtimes d'histoire. 


new greeds, new energies, and this molecular rejuvenation of the 
ruling class continues vigorously until a long period of social 
stability slows it down again. We need hardly mention examples 
of nations in such periods of renovation. In our age that would 
be superfluous. Rapid restocking of ruling classes is a frequent 
and very striking phenomenon in countries that have been 
recently colonized. When social life begins in such environments, 
there is no ready-made ruling class, and while such a class is in 
process of formation, admittance to it is gained very easily. 
Monopolization of land and other agencies of production is, if 
not quite impossible, at any rate more difficult than elsewhere. 
That is why, at least during a certain period, the Greek colonies 
offered a wide outlet for all Greek energy and enterprise. That is 
why, in the United States, where the colonizing of new lands 
continued through the whole nineteenth century and new indus- 
tries were continually springing up, examples of men who started 
with nothing and have attained fame and wealth are still frequent 
all of which helps to foster in the people of that country the 
illusion that democracy is a fact. 

Suppose now that a society gradually passes from its feverish 
state to calm. Since the human being's psychological tendencies 
are always the same, those who belong to the ruling class will 
begin to acquire a group spirit. They will become more and 
more exclusive and learn better and better the art of monopolizing 
to their advantage the qualities and capacities that are essential 
to acquiring power and holding it. Then, at last, the force that 
is essentially conservative appears the force of habit. Many 
people become resigned to a lowly station, while the members of 
certain privileged families or classes grow convinced that they 
have almost an absolute right to high station and command. 

A philanthropist would certainly be tempted to inquire whether 
mankind is happier or less unhappy during periods of social 
stability and crystallization, when everyone is almost fated to 
remain in the social station to which he was born,x*r during the 
directly opposite periods of renovation and revolution, which 
permit all to aspire to the most exalted positions and some to 
attain them. Such an inquiry would be difficult. The answer 
would have to take account of many qualifications and exceptions, 
and might perhaps always be influenced by the personal prefer- 
ences of the observer. We shall therefore be careful not to 


venture on any answer of our own. Besides, even if we could 
reach an undebatable conclusion, it would have a very slight 
practical utility; for the sad fact is that what the philosophers and 
theologians call free will in other words, spontaneous choice by 
individuals has so far had, and will perhaps always have, little 
influence, if any at all, in hastening either the ending or the 
beginning of one of the historical periods mentioned. 


I. As we have just seen, in fairly populous societies that have 
attained a certain level of civilization, ruling classes do not 
justify their power exclusively by de facto possession of it, but try 
to find a moral and legal basis for it, representing it as the logical 
and necessary consequence of doctrines and beliefs that are 
generally recognized and accepted. So if a society is deeply 
imbued with the Christian spirit the political class will govern by 
the will of the sovereign, who, in turn, will reign because he is 
God's anointed. So too in Mohammedan societies political 
authority is exercised directly in the name of the caliph, or vicar, 
of the Prophet, or in the name of someone who has received 
investiture, tacit or explicit, from the caliph. The Chinese 
mandarins ruled the state because they were supposed to be 
interpreters of the will of the Son of Heaven, who had received 
from heaven the mandate to govern paternally, and in accordance 
with the rules of the Confucian ethic, "the people of the hundred 
families." The complicated hierarchy of civil and military func- 
tionaries in the Roman Empire rested upon the will of the 
emperor, who, at least down to Diocletian's time, was assumed 
by a legal fiction to have received from the people a mandate to 
rule the commonwealth. The powers of all lawmakers, magis- 
trates and government officials in the United States emanate 
directly or indirectly from the vote of the voters, which is held to 
be the expression of the sovereign will of the whole American 

{ This legal and moral basis, or principle, on which the power of 
tie political class rests, is what we have elsewhere called, and 
shall continue here to call, the "political formula." (Writers on 
the philosophy of law generally call it the "principle of sover- 
eignty/' 1 ) The political formula can hardly be the same in two 

1 Mosca, Teorica dei governi e governo parlamentare, chap. I; see also Mosca, 
Le costituzioni moderne. 



or more different societies; and fundamental or even notable 
similarities between two or more political formulas appear only 
where the peoples professing them have the same type of civiliza- 
tion (or to use an expression which we shall shortly define 
belong to the same social type). According to the level of 
civilization in the peoples among whom they are current, the 
various political formulas may be based either upon supernatural 
beliefs or upon concepts which, if they do not correspond to posi- 
tive realities, at least appear to be rational/) We shall not say 
that they correspond in either case to scientific truths. A 
conscientious observer would be obliged to confess that, if no one 
has ever seen the authentic document by which the Lord empow- 
ered certain privileged persons or families to rule his people on 
his behalf, neither can it be maintained that a popular election, 
however liberal the suffrage may be, is ordinarily the expression of 
the will of a people, or even of the will of the majority of a people. 

( And yet that does not mean that political formulas are mere 
quackeries aptly invented to trick the masses into obedience); 
Anyone who viewed them in that light would fall into grave 
error. < The truth is that they answer a real need in man's social 
nature; and this need, so universally felt, of governing and 
knowing that one is governed not on the basis of mere material or 
intellectual force, but on the basis of a moral principle, has beyond 
any doubt a practical and a real importance. 

/ Spencer wrote that the divine right of kings was the great super- 
stition of past ages, and that the divine right of elected assemblies 
is the great superstition of our present age. ) The idea cannot be 
called wholly mistaken, but certainly it does not consider or 
exhaust all aspects of the question. It is further necessary to see 
whether a society can hold together without one of these "great 
superstitions" whether a universal illusion is not a social force 
that contributes powerfully to consolidating political organization 
and unifying peoples or even whole civilizations. 


2X Mankind is divided into social groups each of which is set 
apart from other groups by beliefs, sentiments, habits and inter- 
ests that are peculiar to it. The individuals who belong to one 
such group are held together by a consciousness of common 
brotherhood and held apart from other groups by passions and 
tendencies that are more or less antagonistic and mutually 


repellent. As we have already indicated, the political formula 
must be based upon the special beliefs and the strongest senti- 
ments of the social group in which it is current, or at least upon 
the beliefs and sentiments of the particular portion of that group 
which holds political preeminence, 

(This phenomenon the existence of social groups each of which 
has characteristics peculiar to itself and often presumes absolute 
superiority over other groups (the boria nazionale, the national 
conceit, that Vico talks about !) has been recognized and studied 
by many writers, and particularly by modern scholars, in dealing 
with the principle of nationality. Gumplowicz, for instance, 
pointed to its importance in political science, or in sociology if you 
will. We should be quite ready to adopt the word that Gum- 
plowicz uses to designate it syngenism did the term not imply, 
in conformity with the fundamental ideas of that writer, an 
almost absolute preponderance of the ethnological element, of 
community of blood and race, in the formation of each separate 
social group. 1 We do think that, in a number of primitive 
civilizations, not so much community of blood as a belief that 
such community existed belief in a common ancestor, often 
arising, as Gumplowicz himself admits, after the social type had 
been formed may have helped to cement group unities. But we 
also think that certain modern anthropological and philological 
doctrines have served to awaken between social groups and 
between fractions within one group antipathies that use racial 
differences as mere pretexts. Actually, moreover, in the forma- 
tion of the group, or social type, many other elements besides a 
more or less certain racial affinity figure f or example, community 
of language, of religion, of interests, and the recurring relation- 
ships that result from geographical situation. It is not necessary 
that all these factors be present at one and the same time, for 
community of history a life that is lived for centuries in com- 
mon, with identical or similar experiences, engendering similar 
moral and intellectual habits, similar passions and memories 
often becomes the chief element in the development of a conscious 
social type. 2 

Once such a type is formed, we get, to return to a metaphor 
which we have earlier used, a sort of crucible that fuses all indi- 

1 Gumplowicz, Der Rassenkampf, book II, chap. XXXVII. 
Mosca, "Fat tori della nazionalita." 


viduals who enter it into a single alloy. Call it suggestion, call it 
imitation or mimetism, call it education pure and simple, it, 
nevertheless comes about that a man feels, believes, loves, hates, 
according to the environment in which he lives. With exceed- 
ingly rare exceptions, we are Christians or Jews, Mohammedans 
or Buddhists, Frenchmen or Italians, for the simple reason 
that such were the people among whom we were born and 
bred. 1 

3. In the early dawn of history each of the civilized peoples 
was virtually an oasis in a desert of barbarism, and the various 
civilizations, therefore, had either scant intercourse with one 
another or none whatever. That was the situation of ancient 
Egypt during the early dynasties and of China down to a day far 
less remote. Under these circumstances, naturally, each social 
type had an absolute originality that was virtually unaffected by 
infiltrations and influences from outside. 2 And yet, though this 
isolation must have contributed considerably to strengthening 
the tendency that every social type manifests to consolidate into 
a single political organism, nevertheless even in those early days 
that tendency prevailed only sporadically. To keep to the 
examples mentioned : China, in the day of Confucius, was broken 
up into many quasi-independent feudal states; and in Egypt the 
various hiqs, or viceroys, of the individual nomes often acquired 
full independence, and sometimes upper Egypt and lower Egypt 
were separate kingdoms. 

Later on, in highly advanced and very complex civilizations 
such as the Hellenic, we see an opposite tendency coming more 
prominently to the fore, a tendency on the part of a social type 
to divide into separate, and almost always rival, political organ- 
isms. The hegemony that one Greek state or another tried to 
impose on the other Hellenic peoples was always a concept far 
removed from what we moderns think of as political unity; and 
the attempts of Athens and Sparta, and later on of Macedonia, to 
establish such a hegemony in a permanent and effective form 
never quite succeeded. 

1 Cf. above, chap. I, 12, and, incidentally, chap. II, 2. 

2 We are thinking here of moral and intellectual influences. Physical mixtures 
with neighboring barbarians must always have occurred, if only for the reason 
that outsiders were hunted for the purpose of procuring slaves. 


The trait that is truly characteristic of many ancient peoples, 
and in general of civilizations that we may call primitive because 
foreign elements have exerted hardly any influence upon them, is 
the simpleness and unity of the whole system of ideas and beliefs 
on which a people's existence and its political organization are 
based. |Among ancient peoples the political formula not only 
rested upon religion but was wholly identified with it. Their 
god was preeminently a national god. He was the special 
protector of the territory and the people. He was the fulcrum of 
its political organization. A people existed only as long as its god 
was strong enough to sustain it, and in his turn the god survived 
only as long as his people did.) 

^The ancient Hebrews are the best-known example of a people 
organized according to the system just described. We must not 
assume, however, that the kingdoms of Israel and Judah were any 
exception in the periods in which they flourished. The role that 
Jehovah played in Jerusalem was played by Chemosh at Moab, 1 
by Marduk (Merodach) at Babylon, by Ashur at Nineveh, by 
Ammon at Thebes. Just as the God of Israel commanded Saul, 
David and Solomon to fight to the bitter end against the Ammon- 
ites and the Philistines, so Ammon ordered the Egyptian Pharaohs 
to smite the barbarians to east and west and Ashur incited the 
sovereigns of Nineveh to exterminate all foreigners and assured 
them of victory. The speech that the Assyrian ambassador, 
Rab-shakeh, addressed to the Jews assembled on the walls of 
Jerusalem, illustrates the conceptions mentioned. 2 " Yield to my 
Lord," he argues, "for just as other gods have been powerless to 
save their peoples from Assyrian conquest, so will Jehovah be 
powerless to save you." In other words, Jehovah was a god, but 
he was less powerful than Ashur, since Ashur's people had con- 
quered other peoples. The Syrians of Damascus are said to have 
once avoided joining battle with the Kings of Israel in the moun- 
tains because they believed that Jehovah fought better on a 
mountainous terrain than their god did^l 

But little by little contacts between relatively civilized peoples 
became more frequent. Vast empires were founded, and these 

1 See the famous stele of Mesha, king of Moab. A translation of it may be 
found in Lenormant. 
8 1 Kings 0:28: "The Lord is God of the hills." 


could not always be based upon complete assimilation and 
destruction of vanquished peoples. The conquerors often had 
to rest content with merely subduing them. In such cases the 
victor often found it politic to recognize and worship the god of 
the vanquished. The Assyrian kings who conquered Babylon 
paid homage to Marduk, and Cyrus seems to have done the 
same. Alexander the Great sacrificed to Ammon, and in general 
to all the deities of the peoples he conquered. The Romans 
admitted all conquered deities into their pantheon. At that 
point in history, long interludes of peace, and the lulling of 
national rivalries that follows upon the establishment of great 
political organisms, had prepared the ground for a relatively 
recent phenomenon the rise of great religions which were 
humanitarian and universal and which, without distinction of 
race, language or political system, sought to extend the influence 
of their doctrines indiscriminately over the whole world. 

^4. Buddhism, Christianity and Mohammedanism are the three 
great humanitarian religions that have so far appeared in history. 1 
Each of them possesses a complete body of doctrine, the basis 
being predominantly metaphysical in Buddhism and dogmatic in 
Christianity and Mohammedanism. Each of them claims that 
its doctrine contains the absolute truth and that it offers a trust- 
worthy and infallible guide to welfare in this world and salvation 
in the next. C Common acceptance of one of these religions 
constitutes a very close bond between most disparate peoples who 
differ widely in race and language. It gives them a common and 
special manner of viewing morality and life and, more than that, 
political customs and private habits of such a nature as to cause 
the formation of a real social type with conspicuous character- 
istics that are often so profound as to become virtually indelible. 
From the appearance of these great religions dates a clean-cut 
distinction between social type and national type that had 
scarcely existed before. There had once been Egyptian, Chal- 
dean and Greek civilizations, but no Christian or Mohammedan 

1 The Jewish religion, parent of Christianity and Mohammedanism, has also 
become preponderantly humanitarian through a long process of evolution that 
can be traced as far back as the Prophets. Judaism, however, has never had 
any very wide following. There may have been humanitarian tendencies in the 
religion of Zoroaster, though that was just a national religion in origin. 


civilization in other words, there had never been aggregations 
of peoples who were different in language and race and were 
divided into many political organisms but were nevertheless 
united by beliefs, sentiments and a common cultur^j. 

Of all religions Mohammedanism is the one, perhaps, that 
leaves its imprint most deeply on individuals who have embraced 
it, or better, who have been born into a society over which it has 
secured control. Christianity, and Judaism too, have been and 
still are forms that are exceedingly well adapted to molding the 
soft clay of the human spirit in accordance with certain definite 
patterns. The influence of Buddhism is more bland, but it is 
still effective. 

It is to be noted, however, that if (these great religions, with 
their closely knit doctrines and their strongly organized religious 
hierarchies, do serve wonderfully to bind their cobelievers 
together in brotherhood and assimilate them to a common type, 
they also act as estranging forces of great potency between 
populations that cherish different beliefs. They create almost 
unbridgeable gulfs between peoples who are otherwise close kin 
in race and language and who live in adjoining territories or even 
within one countryA Differences in religion have rendered any 
fusion between the populations inhabiting the Balkan peninsula 
almost impossible, and the same is true of India. ( In India ? as is 
hiown, the religions prevailing at present are Mohammedanism 
and Brahamanismi The latter is not a humanitarian rellgidn, 
but it is strongly organized. Minute precepts create cases of 
impurity at the least contact between persons of different castes. 
The caste, therefore, becomes a powerful estranging force, and 
greatly hamBfiia^jaBy ferment of impulses toward social assimi- 

Amazing indeed is the skill that the Romans showed in 
assimilating subject peoples, in the face of the very considerable 
obstacles that arose from differences in race, language and level 
of civilization. They might not have succeeded so well had they 
encountered the resistance of hostile, exclusive and strongly 
organized religions, Druidism in Gaul and Britain had a very 
rudimentary organization, but it offered a certain amount of 
resistance nevertheless. The Jews allowed themselves to be 
killed and dispersed, but they were never assimilated. In North 
Africa, Rome succeeded in Latinizing the ancestors of the modern 


Moors, Arabs and Kabyles and in converting them to her civiliza- 
tion, at least up to a certain point; but she never had to deal with 
the Mussulman religion, as the French and Italians of our day arc 
obliged to do. Jugurtha and Tacfarinas could not appeal to 
religious passions as Abd-el-Kader and Bou-Maza have done in 
our time. As Karamzin so aptly remarks, the Christian religion 
saved Moscow from becoming wholly Asiatic under the long 
dominion of the Mongols. On the other hand, though the 
Russians in their turn are efficient assimilators, and though 
Finnish and Mongol blood are blended in large proportions with 
the Slavic in White Russia, the units of Mohammedan Tatars in 
Kazan, Astrakhan and the Crimea have never been absorbed. 
Either they have emigrated or else they have stayed on as a 
people apart, subject, to be sure, but sharply distinguished from 
the rest of the Russian people. 1 The children of the Celestial 
Empire have been fairly successful in assimilating the inhabitants 
of the southern provinces, alien by race and language, but they 
have not succeeded so well with the Roui-Tze, descendants of 
Turkish tribes who have dwelt for a thousand years or more in 
provinces in the northwest of China proper. These have taken 
on the language and the external appearance of the real Chinese, 
and mingle with the latter in the same cities, but they have been 
kept in spiritual isolation by Mohammedanism, which their 
fathers had embraced before passing the Great Wall. The 
Turkish tribes in question established themselves in the provinces 
of Shensi and Kansu under the Tang dynasty, on being summoned 
thither to check invasions by the Tibetans. In 1861 the antip- 
athies that had always existed between the Mohammedans and 
their Buddhist fellow countrymen gave rise to a terrible insurrec- 
tion, in which the Mohammedans waged a war of extermination 
against the Buddhists. After the provinces mentioned had been 
reduced to ghastly desolation, the civil war became localized in 
the Kashgar, beyond the Great Wall. It did not end until 1877, 
when the Mohammedan leader, Jakoub-beg, was assassinated. 2 

With the appearance of the great universal religions, the 
history of mankind becomes complicated by new factors. We 
have already seen that even before those religions arose, a social 

1 Leroy-Beaulieu, E 'Empire des tmrs et les Russes, 

2 Rousset, A tiravers la Chine, 


type, in spite of its tendency toward unity, might split up into 
different political systems. With the advent of the great 
religions, this fact becomes more general and less avoidable.) and 
the ground is prepared for the emergence of a phenomenon which, 
as regards Europe, is called the struggle between church and 

ipThe complication arises primarily from the fact that the 
tendency of the social type toward unity remains but is hampered 
by far stronger forces. The political organization still tries to 
justify its own existence by the tenets of the prevailing religion, 
but the religion, on its side, is always trying to obtain control of, 
and to identify itself with, political power in order to use the 
latter as an instrument for its own ends and propaganda^ 

TJ^ljffjnn fljid.|jf t jfifi ft^e most closely united in Mohammedan 
countries. The head of a Mohammedan state has almost always 
Seen the high priest of one of the great Islamic sects, or else has 
received Els investiture from tEe liands of a high priest. In past 
centuries this investiture was often an empty formality which the 
caliph, by that time stripped of temporal power, could not with- 
hold from the powerful. / In the period between the fall of the 
Abbassids of Bagdad and the rise of the great Ottoman Empire 
Mussulman fanaticism was less violent than it is today. Even a 
superficial familiarity with the history of the Mohammedan 
countries convinces one of that. Heirs of the Persian civilization 
of the age of the Sassanids, and thanks to their study of ancient 
Greek authors, the Mussulmans were for several centuries during 
the Middle Ages much less prejudiced than the Christians of the 
same period. 1 j It is certain, moreover, that almost every great 
revolution in tlie Mohammedan world, the birth of almost every 
state, is accompanied and justified by a new religious schism. So 
it was in the Middle Ages, when the new empires of the Almora- 
vides and the Almohades arose; and that was also the case in the 
nineteenth century with the insurrection of the Wahabis and the 
revolt led by the Mahdi of Omdurman. 

In China, Buddhism lives meekly on under the protection of 
the state, the latter showing that it recognizes and fosters the 
creed as a gesture of deference toward the lower classes, which 
really believe in it. Down to a few years ago the Grand Lama, 
who is the high authority of the Buddhists in Tibet, Mongolia and 

* Anaari. St&ria dei Musulmani in Sidlia. 


certain provinces of China proper, scrupulously followed the 
suggestions of the Chinese resident at Lhasa. The bonzes, who 
are scattered over the greater part of China, have no centralized 
organization in a way they are the Protestants of Buddhism. 
The government tolerates them and often spends a certain 
amount of money on Buddhist festivals in order to humor popular 
beliefs, f The higher classes in China follow the agnostic posi- 
tivism of Confucius, which is not clearly distinguishable from a 
vague sort of deism.) In Japan the same religion is tolerated, but 
the government has of late been trying to rehabilitate the ancient 
national cult of Shinto. 

(The various Christian sects have met widely varying conditions 
in Europe. In Russia the czar was the head of the orthodox 
religion and the church authority was practically one with the 
state authority. In the eyes of a loyal Russian a good subject of 
the czar had to be an orthodox Greek Catholic. 1 In Protestant 
countries, too, the dominant sect often has a more or less official 
character. Since the fall of the Roman empire, Catholicism has 
had greater independence) In the Middle Ages it aspired to 
control over lay authority in all the countries that had entered the 
Catholic orbit, and there was a time when the pope could reason- 
ably hope that a realization of the vast papal project of uniting all 
Christianity in other words a whole social type under his more 
or less direct influence was near at hand. Today the pope gets 
along by compromises, lending his support to secular powers and 
receiving theirs. In one country or another he is in open conflict 
with them. 

But^a political organism, which has a population that follows 
one of the universal religions, or is divided among several sects 
of one of them, must have a legal and moral basis of its own on 
which the ruling class may take its stand. It must, therefore, be 
founded on a national feeling, on a long tradition of independence, 
on historic memories, on an age-old loyalty to a dynasty on 
something, in short, that is peculiar to itself *) Alongside of the 
general humanitarian cult, there must somehow be a, so to say, 
national cult that is more or less satisfactorily reconciled and 
coordinated with the other. The duties of the two cults are often 
simultaneously observed by the same individuals, for human 
beings are not always strictly consistent in reconciling the various 
1 Leroy-Beaulieu, IS Empire des tzars et Us 


principles that inspire their conduct. In practice one may be a 
good Catholic and at the same time a good German, or a good 
Italian, or a good Frenchman, or a loyal subject of a Protestant 
sovereign, or a good citizen of a republic that makes official 
profession of anticlericalism. Sometimes, as frequently hap- 
pened in an older Italy, one can be a good patriot and an ardent 
socialist at the same time, though socialism, like Catholicism, 
is in essence antagonistic to national particularisms. These 
compromises occur, however, when passions are not very keen. 
In point of strict consistency, the eighteenth century English 
were right when they thought that, since the king was the head of 
the Anglican Church and every good Catholic owed his prime obe- 
dience to the pope, no good Catholic could be a good Englishman. 
^J When there is a more or less masked antagonism between a 
doctrine, or a creed, that aspires to universality, and the senti- 
ments and traditions that support the particularism of a state, 
what is really essential is that those sentiments and traditions 
should be really vigorous, that they should also be bound up with 
many material interests and that a considerable portion of the 
ruling class should be strongly imbued with them and should 
propagate and keep them alive in the masses. If, in addition, 
this element in the ruling class is soundly organized, it can resist 
all the religious or doctrinary currents that are exerting an 
influence in the society that it rules. But if it is lukewarm in its 
sentiments, if it is feeble in moral and intellectual forces, if its 
organization is defective, then the religious and doctrinary cur- 
rents prevail and the state ends by becoming a plaything of some 
one of the universal religions or doctrines for example of 
Catholicism or of social democracy. J 

6. Before we proceed any further, it might be wise to linger 
briefly on the two types into which, in our opinion, all political 
organisms may be classified, the feudal and the bureaucratic. 

This classification, it should be noted, is not based upon essen- 
tial, unchanging criteria. It is not our view that there is any 
psychological law peculiar to either one of the two types and 
therefore alien to the other. It seems to us, rather, that the two 
types are just different manifestations, different phases, of a 
single constant tendency whereby human societies become less 
simple, or, if one will, more complicated in political organization, 


as they grow in size and are perfected in civilization. Level of 
civilization is, on the whole, more important in this regard than 
size, since, in actual fact, a literally huge state may once have 
been feudally organized. At bottom, therefore, a bureaucratic 
state is just a feudal state that has advanced and developed in 
organization and so grown more complex; and a feudal state may 
derive from a once bureaucratized society that has decayed in 
civilization and reverted to a simpler, more primitive form of 
political organization, perhaps falling to pieces in the process. 

By "feudal state" we mean that type of political organization 
in which all the executive functions of society the economic, the 
judicial, the administrative, the militaryare exercised simul- 
taneously by the same individuals, while at the same time the 
state is made up of small social aggregates, each of which possesses 
all the organs that are required for self-sufficiency. The Europe 
of the Middle Ages offers the most familiar example of this type 
of organization that*4s why we have chosen to designate it by 
the term "feudal"; but as one reads the histories of other peoples 
or scans the accounts of travelers of our own day one readily 
perceives that the type is widespread. Just as the medieval 
baron was simultaneously owner of the land, military commander, 
judge and administrator of his fief, over which he enjoyed both a 
pure and a mixed sovereignty, so the Abyssinian ras dispensed 
justice, commanded the soldiery and levied taxes^ or rather 
extorted from the farmer everything over and aboVe the bare 
necessaries of subsistence. In certain periods of ancient Egypt 
the hiq, or local governor, saw to the upkeep of the canals, super- 
vised agriculture, administered justice, exacted tribute, com- 
manded his warriors. This was more especially the case during 
the earliest known periods and under some of the more recent 
dynasties, jit must not be forgotten that the history of ancient 
Egypt covers about thirty centuries, a period long enough, in 
spite of the alleged immobility of the East, for a society to pass 
back and forth between feudalism and bureaucracy any number 
of times.; So too the curaca of Peru, under Inca rule, was the 
head of his village, and in that capacity administered the collec- 
tive rural property, exercised all judiciary functions and, at the 
request of the Son of the Sun, commanded the armed quotas 
that the village contributed. China also passed through a feudal 
period, and in Japan that type of organization lasted down to the 


end of the sixteenth century, its last traces not vanishing till after 
the revolution of 1868. Afghanistan is still feudally organized, 
and so was India to a great extent at the time of the European 
conquest. We may go so far as to say that every great society 
must have passed one or more times through a feudal period. 

Sometimes religious functions also are exercised by the leader 
who has charge of other social activities. This was true of 
Europe in medieval times, when abbots and bishops were holders 
of fiefs. {A feudal order may exist, furthermore, even when land, 
the almostPexclusive source of wealth in societies of low-grade 
civilization, is not by law the absolute property of the governing 
class. Even granting that the cultivators are not legally vassals 
and slaves, or indeed are nominally owners of the soil they culti- 
vate, the local leader and his satellites, having full power to exact 
tribute and require forced labor, will leave the workers of the land 
no more than is indispensable for a bare subsistence^ 

Even small political units, in which the production of wealth 
rests not upon agriculture but upon commerce and industry, 
sometimes show markedly feudal characteristics, exhibiting a 
concentration of political and economic management in the same 
persons that is characteristically feudal. The political heads of 
the medieval communes were at the same time heads of the craft 
and trade guilds. The merchants of Tyre and Sidon, like the 
merchants of Genoa and Venice, Bremen and Hamburg, managed 
banks, superintended the trading posts that were established in 
barbarian countries, commanded ships which served now as 
merchantmen, now as war vessels, and governed their cities. 
That was the case especially when the cities lived by maritime 
commerce, in the exercise of which anyone who commanded a 
vessel readily combined his functions as a merchant with political 
or military leadership. In other places, in Florence for example, 
where a large part of the municipal wealth was derived from 
industry and banking, the ruling class soon lost its warlike habits 
and therewith direction of military affairs. To that fact may 
have been partly due the troubled career of the commercial 
oligarchy in Florence after the expulsion of the Duke of Athens 
and down to the time of Cosimo dei Medici. The year 1325 
saw the last of the cavallate, or military expeditions, in which 
the nobles and wealthy merchants of Florence personally 
participated. 1 

1 Capponi, Storia delta Repubblica di Firms. 


7. In the bureaucratic state not all the executive functions need 
to be concentrated in the bureaucracy and exercised by it. One 
might even declare that so far in history that has never been the 
case. The main characteristic of this type of social organization 
lies, we, believe, in the fact that, wherever it exists, the central 
power conscripts a considerable portion of the social wealth by 
taxation and uses it first to maintain a military establishment and 
then to support a more or less extensive number of public services. 
The greater the number of officials who perform public duties and 
receive their salaries from the central government or from its local 
agencies, the more bureaucratic a society becomes. 

In a bureaucratic state there is always a greater specialization 
in the functions of government than in a feudal state. The first 
and most elementary division of capacities is the withdrawal of 
administrative and judiciary powers from the military element. 
The bureaucratic state, furthermore, assures a far greater disci- 
pline in all grades of political, administrative and military service. 
To gain some conception of what this means, one has only to 
compare a medieval count, hedged about by armed retainers and 
by vassals who have been attached for centuries to his family and 
supported by the produce of his lands, with a modern French or 
Italian prefect or army general, whom a telegram can suddenly 
shear of authority and even of stipend. The feudal state, there- 
fore, demands great energy and a great sense of statesmanship in 
the man, or men, who stand on the top rung of the social ladder, 
if the various social groups, which would otherwise tend to dis- 
organization and autonomy, are to be kept organized, compact 
and obedient to a single impulse. So true is this that often with 
the death of an influential leader the power of a feudal state 
itself comes to an end. Only great moral unity the presence of 
a sharply defined social type can long save the political existence 
of a people that is feudally organized. Nothing less than Chris- 
tianity was required to hold the Abyssinian tribes together amid 
the masses of pagans and Mohammedans that encircled them, 
and to preserve their autonomy for over two thousand years. 
But when the estranging force is feeble, or when the feudal state 
comes into contact with more soundly organized peoples, then 
such a state may very easily be absorbed and vanish in one of the 
frequent periodical crises to which its central power is irremedi- 
ably exposed the example of Poland comes immediately to 


mind. OB the other hand, the personal qualities of the supreme 
head exert relatively little influence on the destinies of a bureau- 
cratic state. A society that is bureaucratically organized may 
retain its freedom even if it repudiates an old political formula and 
adopts a new one, or even if it subjects its social type to very far- 
reaching modifications. This was the case with the Roman 
Empire. It survived the adoption of Christianity in the West 
for a century and a half, and in the East for more than eleven 
centuries. So our modern nations have nearly all shifted at one 
time or another from a divine-right formula to parliamentary 
systems of government. 

8. Bureaucratic organization need not necessarily be central- 
ized, in the sense commonly given to that expression. Often 
bureaucratization is compatible with a very liberal provincial 
autonomy, as in China, where the eighteen strictly Chinese 
provinces preserved broad autonomous privileges and the capital 
city of each province looked after almost all provincial affairs. 1 

States of European civilization even the most decentralized of 
them are all bureaucratized. As we have already indicated, 
the chief characteristic of a bureaucratic organization is that its 
military functions, and other public services in numbers more or 
less large, are exercised by salaried employees. Whether salaries 
are paid exclusively by the central government or in part by local 
bodies more or less under the control of the central government is 
a detail that is not as important as it is often supposed to be. 
History is not lacking in cases of very small political organisms 
which have accomplished miracles of energy in every branch of 
human activity with the barest rudiments of bureaucratic organ- 
ization or with practically none at all. The ancient Hellenic 
cities and the Italian communes of the Middle Ages are examples 
that flock to mind. But when vast human organisms, spreading 
over huge territories and comprising millions and millions of 
individuals, are involved, nothing short of bureaucratic organiza- 
tion seems capable of uniting under a single impulse the immense 
treasures of economic power and moral and intellectual energy 
with which a ruling class can in a measure modify conditions 
within a society and make its influence effective and powerful 
beyond its own frontiers. Under a feudal organization the 

1 Hue, Reclus, Rousset. 


authority which a given member of the ruling class exerts over 
individuals of the subject class, few or many, may be more direct, 
oppressive, and arbitrary. Under a bureaucratic organization 
society is influenced less by the given individual leader than by 
the ruling class as a whole. 

Egypt was bureaucratized in the golden ages of the seventeenth 
and eighteenth dynasties, when the civilization of the Pharaohs 
had one of its most lustrous periods of renascence, and the Egyp- 
tian battalions pushed their conquests from the Blue Nile to the 
foothills of the Caucasus. In ancient Egypt, as in China, the 
coinage of precious metals was unknown. Taxes therefore were 
collected in kind or were calculated in precious metals, which were 
weighed out on scales. This was no inconsiderable obstacle to 
the functioning of the bureaucratic system. The difficulty was 
overcome by a complicated and very detailed system of book- 
keeping. It is interesting also to note, on the psychological side, 
that with social conditions equal, man is always the same, even 
in little things, through the ages. Letters surviving from those 
days 1 show Egyptian officers detailing the hardships of their 
faraway garrisons in Syria, and functionaries who are bored in 
their little provincial towns soliciting the influence of their 
superiors to procure transfers to the gayer capital. Such letters 
could be drawn from the archives of almost any department in 
any modern European government. 

The Roman empire was a highly bureaucratized state, and its 
sound social organism was able to spread Greco-Roman civiliza- 
tion and the language of Italy over large portions of the ancient 
world, accomplishing a most difficult task of social assimilation. 
Another bureaucracy was czarist Russia, which, despite a number 
of serious internal weaknesses, had great vitality and carried its 
expansion deep into the remote fastnesses of Asia. 

In spite of these examples, and not a few others that might 
readily occur to one, we should not forget a very important fact 
to which we have already alluded: namely, that history shows no 
instance of a great society in which all human activities have 
been completely bureaucratized. This, perhaps, is one of the 
many indications of the great complexity of social laws, for a type 
of political organization may produce good results when applied 
up to a certain point, but become impracticable and harmful 

1 Texts and translations by Lenormant and Maspero. 


when it is generalized and systematized. Justice is quite gener- 
ally bureaucratized, and so is public administration. Napoleon I, 
great bureaucratizer that he was, succeeded in bureaucratizing 
education and even the Catholic priesthood. We often see 
bureaucracies building roads, canals, railways and all sorts of 
public works that facilitate the production of wealth. But 
production itself we never see entirely bureaucratized. It would 
seem as though that very important branch of social activity, like 
so many other branches, lends itself ill to bureaucratic regulation, 
individual profit being a far more effective spur to the classes 
engaged in production than any government salary could be. 

-What is more, we have fairly strong evidence that the extension 
of bureaucratic control to the production and distribution of 
wealth as a whole would be fatal. We are not thinking here 
of the economic evils of protectionism, of governmental control of 
banking and finance, of the overdevelopment of public works. 
We are merely pointing to a well-established fact. In a bureau- 
cratic system both the manager of economic production and the 
individual worker are protected against arbitrary confiscations 
on the part of the strong and powerful, and all private warfare 
is sternly suppressed. Human life and property are therefore 
relatively secure. Under a bureaucratic regime, the producer 
pays over a fixed quota to the social organization and secures 
tranquil enjoyment of the rest of his product. This permits an 
accretion of wealth, public and private, that is unknown to bar- 
barous or primitively organized countries. But the amount of 
wealth that is absorbed and consumed by the class that fulfills 
other than economic functions may become too great, either 
because the demands of the military class, and of other bureau- 
crats, are excessive, or because the bureaucracy tries to perform 
too many services, or because of wars and the debts thai result 
from wars. Under these circumstances the taxes that are levied 
upon the wealth-producing classes become so heavy that the 
profit that an individual can earn in the field of production is 
markedly reduced. In that event production itself inevitably 
falls off. As wealth declines, emigration and higher death rates 
thin out the poorer classes, and finally the exhaustion of the 
entire social body ensues. These phenomena* are observable 
whenever a bureaucratic state declines. We see them in the 
epoch that followed upon the maximum development of bureau- 


cracy in ancient Egypt, and more strikingly still during the decay 
of the Roman Empire. At the end of the long reign of Ramses 
II, with which the decline of the third Egyptian civilization 
begins, taxes had become intolerable, as is attested by numbers 
of private documents that have been deciphered by Maspero, 
Lenormant and others. We know that the real reason for the 
decline of the Roman Empire was a f alling-off in population and 
wealth, which in turn must have been caused in the main by the 
burden of taxes and the unthinking greed with which they were 
collected. 1 In France, too, population and wealth dwindled at 
the end of the long reign of the Great King. They were put into 
good condition again under the administration of the peace- 
loving Cardinal de Fleury. 

9. It would take us too far afield to respond seriatim to all 
the theories and doctrines that diverge from our point of view 
concerning the classification of governmental types in human 
societies. Among such doctrines, however, two are so important, 
in view of the vogue that they are having today, that we can 
hardly ignore them. We allude to the closely related theories 
of Comte and Spencer. Large numbers of writers on the social 
and political sciences make the concepts of those famous sociolo- 
gists the cornerstones of their reasonings and their systems. 

Comte, as is well known, stressed three stages in the evolution 
of human intelligence, the theological, the metaphysical and the 
positive, with three different types of social organization cor- 
responding to them, the military, the feudal and the industrial. 

Little fault need be found with this classification of the intel- 
lectual processes of man in general. Man may, in fact, explain 
to himself all phenomena in the organic and inorganic universe, 
even social phenomena, by attributing them to supernatural 
beings, to the intervention of God or of gods or of spirits bene- 
ficent or maleficent, whom he takes to be the authors of victory 
and defeat, of abundance and famine, of good health and pes- 
tilence; and if one assumes that there was a stage in history 
in which man reasoned exclusively in this fashion, the stage 
may well be called theological. Man may also explain the same 
phenomena by ascribing them to prime, or first, causes which are 
products of his imagination or of a superficial or fanciful observa- 

1 Marquardt, Organisation financiere chez let Ro mains. 


tion of facts, as when he believed that the destinies of individuals 
and nations depended upon the motions and conjunctions of the 
planets, or that the health of the human body depended upon 
combinations of humors, or that the wealth of nations corre- 
sponded to the quantities of precious metals that they possessed. 
In this case man may well be said to be in a metaphysical, or 
aprioristic stage. Finally, man can give up trying to discover 
the prime causes of phenomena and try instead, with rigorous 
methods of observation, to formulate the natural laws with 
which phenomena conform and so enable himself to take all 
possible advantage of them. In this frame of mind man can be 
said to be in a scientific or positive stage. 

Objections to Comte's system begin when he sets out to ascribe 
the three processes mentioned to definite historical periods and 
then to classify human societies by assigning them to one or 
another of the periods so obtained. All three intellectual 
processes go on in all human societies, from the maturest down to 
those which are still, so to speak, in the savage state. Ancient 
Greece gave us Hippocrates and Aristotle, and Rome Lucretius. 
Modern European civilization has given us physics, chemistry 
and political economy. It has invented the telescope and the 
microscope. It has tamed electricity and discovered the bacteria 
that cause epidemics and diseases. Yet we cannot help recogniz- 
ing that in Athens as in ancient Rome,Jn Paris as in Berlin, in 
London as in New York, the majority of individuals were and 
are in the full midst of the theological stage, or at best in the 
metaphysical stage. Just as there was no time in classical 
antiquity when soothsayers and oracles were not consulted, or 
when sacrifices were not offered and omens believed, so revealed 
religions continue to play important roles in the lives of our 
contemporaries, and wherever religion weakens we witness 
growths of spiritualistic superstitions or of the absurd meta- 
physics of social democracy. On the other hand the savage who 
sees a fetish in a plant or a stone, or who believes that his tribe's 
medicine man produces rain and makes the lightning, could not 
live in this world if he did not possess a certain amount of soundly 
positive information. When he studies the habits of the animals 
he hunts, when he learns to identify their tracks and takes 
account of the direction of the wind in order to surprise and 
capture them, he is utilizing observations that have been accumu- 


lated and systematized by himself and his fathers, and is acting 
therefore in accord with the dictates of sound science. 1 

But that is not all. Comte's three intellectual processes go 
on simultaneously to use his curious language, his three periods 
coexist not only in one historical epoch and in one people, 
but also in one individual. We may say, with examples by the 
hundreds before our eyes, that this is the general rule and that 
the contrary is the exception. What Italian, in fact, has not 
known some God-fearing ship's captain who in religion believes 
in the miracles of Our Lady of Lottrdes or of the Madonna of 
Pompeii, who in politics or in economics believes in universal 
suffrage or in the class struggle, but who, when it comes to 
running his ship, handles his tiller according to the compass and 
trims his sails according to the direction of the wind? All, or 
virtually all, physicians down to two centuries ago believed in 
religion and so did not deny the efficacy of prayer and votive 
offerings in the treatment of the sick. As regards the function- 
ing of the different organs in the human body and the virtues of 
certain simples, they held various metaphysical beliefs, derived in 
large part from Galen or from Arab doctors. But at the same 
time they were not without a certain fund of scientific information 
that went back to Hippocrates and which, slowly enriched by 
the experience of many centuries, permitted rational treatments 
in some few cases. So "prayers for victory and Te Deums of 
thanksgiving were offered in Europe to the Most High long after 
Gustavus Adolphus, Turenne and Montecuccoli had begun to 
fight wars on scientific principles. To mention one other case: 
When Xenophon believed that a dream was a warning from the 
gods he was in a full theological period. As to the shape of the 
earth and the composition of matter he had ideas that the geogra- 
phers and chemists of our day would characterize as metaphysical. 
But, in leading the famous retreat of the Ten Thousand, he 
found it necessary to protect his main column, which was 
marching with the baggage train, from continuous raids by the 
Persian cavalry. He flanked it with two lines of light-armed 
troops so guiding himself by principles which, given the arma- 

1 This objection to Comte's theory was seen by Comte himself, for he wrote: 
"This ephemeral coexistence of the three intellectual stages today is the only 
plausible explanation for the resistance that outdated thinkers are still offering 
to my law." Sy*t$me t vol. Ill, p. 41. 


ments then in use, a modern tactician would judge thoroughly 
scientific and positive. In the Cyropaedia Xenophon is primarily 
theological and metaphysical. He turns positive again in his 
treatise on the art of horseback riding. On this topic he draws 
his precepts, as any modern writer would, from study of the 
nature of the horse. 

10. The truth is that, in this as in so many other cases, over- 
simplification is not well suited to the sciences that deal with the 
psychology of man. Man is an exceedingly complex animal, 
full of contradictions. He is not always considerate enough to 
be logical and consistent and so, even when he believes and hopes 
that God is going to interfere in his behalf, he is careful to keep 
his powder dry careful to take advantage, in other words, both 
of his own and of other people's intelligence and experience. 
The one really valid argument that can be adduced in favor 
of Comte's classification is that although the three intellectual 
stages coexist in all human societies and can be detected in the 
majority of individuals who compose those societies, they may, 
according to the case, be very unequally distributed. A people 
may have an equipment of scientific knowledge that is unques- 
tionably superior to that of another people, and in the various 
periods of its history it may progress or decline greatly in respect 
of scientific knowledge; and it is just as certain that metaphysical 
doctrines and supernatural beliefs generally have a stronger hold 
on scientifically backward nations and individuals and exert a 
greater influence on them. But subjected to those limitations 
Comte's theory comes down to something like the rather com- 
monplace doctrine that the farther a society progresses in 
scientific thinking, the less room it has left for aprioristic or 
metaphysical thinking, and the less influence the supernatural 
has upon it. 

"Natio est omnium Gallorum admodum dedita religionibus 
(the whole race of Gauls is extraordinarily devoted to religious 
rites)," wrote Caesar a judgment that an individual belonging 
to a more civilized people always makes of a less civilized people. 1 
It is a curious fact that if believers in revealed religions have 
a certain amount of scientific training they are careful not 
to attribute everything that happens in this world to the con- 
1 De beUo Gallico, VI, Id. 


tinuous interference of supernatural beings, as cruder peoples 
and more ignorant individuals usually do. 

But the ideas of the father of modern sociology seem to go 
even wider of the mark in the matter of the parallel that he sets 
up between his three intellectual stages and his three types of 
political organization, the military, the feudal and the industrial, 
the first corresponding to the infancy, the second to the adoles- 
cence, the third to the maturity of human societies. 

The military function, in other words the organization of an 
armed force for the defense of a people at home and abroad 
(and, for that matter, for offense too, according as human 
interests, prejudices and passions chance to determine) has so 
far been a necessity in all human societies. The greater or 
lesser predominance of the military element in political life 
depends partly upon factors which we have already examined 
on whether the military element is a more or less indispensable 
and comprehensive political force, and whether it is more or 
less balanced by other political forces and partly on other factors 
which we shall not fail to consider in due course. For the time 
being we see no necessity for the indissoluble union that Comte 
insists on establishing between the predominance of militarism 
in political life and the prevalence of the theological period in 
the intellectual and moral worlds. We can even go on and say 
that we do not consider it in any way proved that the type of 
organization that Comte calls military can prevail only in 
societies that are in the first stage of their development, or, to 
use the language of the modern positivists, in a state of infancy. 

Hellenic society, after Alexander the Great, was evidently 
organized according to a pattern that any sociologist would 
define as military. After the Macedonian conquest the repub- 
lican leagues of Greece proper had only a very limited political 
importance. Down to the Roman conquest they were always 
in the position of clients or vassals to the great Hellenized 
kingdoms of Egypt, Syria and, particularly, Macedonia, which 
were real military absolutisms based on the support of armies. 
Yet those were the days when Greek society was in anything 
but a state of infancy, or a theological period. The philo- 
sophical schools that represent the greatest effort of Hellenic 
thought in the direction of positive science had been formed 
shortly before and were flourishing at that time. The same thing 


may be observed in Roman society when, after Caesar, an 
imperial absolutism resting on the praetorian guards and the 
legions came to be established. 

When religious beliefs are widespread and a people has ardent 
faith in them we inevitably get a political predominance of the 
priestly classes. Now those classes and the military classes 
are not always one and the same, nor do they always have the 
same sentiments and interests. The union of throne and altar 
that took place in Europe early in the nineteenth century, after 
the Holy Alliance, was due to the peculiar circumstance that 
both throne and altar were directly threatened by the same 
rationalistic and revolutionary currents. But far from consti- 
tuting a general rule which might be taken as a universal law, 
that case is to be regarded rather as one of the many transitory 
phenomena that develop in history. There is no lack of exam- 
ples to the contrary the case of India, for instance, where, at 
one time, the Brahman caste found itself in conflict with the 
warrior caste. In Europe there is the celebrated struggle 
between papacy and empire. 

Going on, we can find no justification in fact whatever for 
that portion of Comte's doctrine which correlates the predomi- 
nance of the feudal system in political organization with the 
predominance of metaphysics in human thought. In Comte's 
system, medieval monotheism and medieval ontology represent 
a transition between polytheism in other words a full-fledged 
theological period and modern science, just as feudalism, which 
Comte regards as a defensive type of militarism, is a bridge 
between the military and industrial periods. "In fact," he 
says, "monotheism fits in with defense as well as polytheism 
fits in with conquest. The feudal lords formed just as complete 
a transition between military commanders and industrial leaders 
as ontology formed between theology and science." 1 Now to 
hold that monotheism is best adapted to defense, just as poly- 
theism is best adapted to conquest, is to take no account what- 
ever of large portions of the world's history the history of the 
Mussulman world, for example. 

We have already seen (chap. Ill, 6) that what is commonly 
called feudal organization is a relatively simple political type 
that is often encountered in the early stages of great human 
1 Systime, vol. Ill, p. 66, 


societies and appears again as great bureaucratic states degener- 
ate. Political progress and scientific progress do not always go 
hand in hand, as is shown by the history of Italy in the Renais- 
sance. We may nevertheless grant, with reservations, that 
periods of general ignorance and intellectual prostration cor- 
respond on the whole to primitive stages in political life or to 
periods of political decadence and dissolution. But what we 
cannot see is why such periods should be characterized by the 
prevalence of metaphysical rather than theological thinking 
any more than we can see that there can necessarily be no 
scientific activity during the flowering of a feudal organization. 
Confucius lived in a period when China was feudally organized, 
and he certainly was no metaphysician. On the other hand the 
trivium and the quadrivium are unknown to the Afghans and 
Abyssinians of our day as well, for that matter, as anything 
more than the very elementary forms of culture* 

Comte bases his argument largely upon the example of medie- 
val Europe, and that period undoubtedly had its great meta- 
physicians, as did classical antiquity. But to think of medieval 
thought as a sort of bridge between ancient theology and modern 
scientific thought is a mistake, just as it is a mistake to imagine 
that feudalism was an organically intermediary political form 
between the ancient hieratic empires and the modern state. 

One has only to read a medieval writer a writer, preferably, 
who is somewhat posterior to the fall of the western Empire and 
not too close to the Renaissance to perceive at once how much 
more profoundly, how much more basically theological, medie- 
val thinking was than the thinking of antiquity. Medieval 
writers and the people about them are immensely more remote, 
immensely more different, from us, than the contemporaries of 
Aristotle or Cicero ever were. And the feudal order developed 
and flourished in the very centuries when continuous fear of 
famine and pestilence, and frequent apparitions of celestial and 
infernal beings tormented and utterly moronized the human 
mind; when terror of the devil was a permanent mental state in 
wretched souls in whom reason had languished for want of any 
cultural sustenance, and to whom the marvelous and the super- 
natural were elements as familiar as the air they breathed. 

One of the most characteristic writers of the period was the 
monk Raoul Glaber (Radulfus) who wrote a chronicle that comes 


down to almost the middle of the eleventh century. 1 Accord- 
ing to that monk the ancient classical writers, Vergil included, 
appeared to their readers in the guise of devils. Glaber's faith 
is steadfast but unwarmed by brotherly love, and in it fear of the 
Evil One probably plays a larger role than love and worship 
of the good, the merciful God of the Christians. In Glaber's 
eyes, Satan is at all times present and has a finger in everything 
that happens to human beings. There is perhaps no living 
person who has not seen him. In spite of an energetic piety 
and zealous compliance with the rule of his order, Glaber himself 
has seen the Devil three or four times. 

Not all writers of that era, to be sure, show the same derange- 
ment of the intellectual faculties, but no one is altogether immune 
to it. A Norman, Goffredo Malaterra, tells the story of Count 
Roger's conquest of Sicily from the Saracens with considerable 
discernment and balance of judgment, and at times he evinces a 
certain capacity for observing human events with an unpreju- 
diced eye. Yet in describing a battle that was fought at Cerami 
between the Count and the infidels, he ascribes the victory of the 
Christians to the direct interposition of St. George, who fought 
in person in the ranks of the Normans. In proof of the miracle 
Malaterra records that a white flag emblazoned with a cross was 
seen to appear on the lance of the Christian leader and flutter 
in the wind. 

The epidemic of demonolatry even spread to the Byzantine 
East. Georgius Cedrenus and the chronicler Constantine Por- 
phyrogenitus relate that the capture of Syracuse by the Saracens 
was known in the Peloponnesus long before any refugees arrived, 
because some demons were chatting together in a wood one 
night and were overheard recounting the details of that disaster. 

In justification of his theory Comte writes: "Noteworthy as 
characterizing the true spirit of Catholicism is the fact that it 
reduces theological life to the domain of the strictly necessary." 2 
But that is failing to take account of the fact that the super- 
natural is "reduced to the strictly necessary" not only in Catholi- 
cism but in all monotheistic religions when they are professed 
by civilized peoples who possess broad scientific cultures the 
modern English for instance. No such reduction occurs when 

1 fimile Gebhart, "L*tat d'ame d'ua moine de Fan 1000," 
e, vol. Ill, p. 484. 

11] SPENCER 95 

monotheistic religions are professed by barbarous peoples of 
low cultural levels. In such cases the sway of the supernatural 
over the minds of men may be much greater than it is among 
polytheistic peoples of higher levels of civilization. 

11. The third necessary correspondence that Cointe sets up, the 
relation between the industrial system and positive science, is 
also fallacious. We may dispense with proof of that because, in 
this third section of Comte's political positivism, his ideas have 
had no great resonance, being too divergent from the ideas that 
are now most in vogue among our contemporaries, and not 
offering sufficient leverage for justifying with a semblance of 
scientific method the passions and interests that have so far 
been most to the fore in our day. Comte regarded industrialism 
as a type of social organization that would be realized in a remote 
future when the managerial functions of society would be 
entrusted to a priesthood of positivistic scientists and to a 
patriciate of bankers and businessmen, to which, it would seem, 
the members of the lower classes were not to gain ready admit- 
tance. Foreseeing that this question might arise, Comte did 
not forget to write that "the priesthood will prevail upon the 
proletarians to scorn any temptation to leave their own class as 
contrary to the majesty of the people's function and fatal to the 
righteous aspirations of the masses, who have always been 
betrayed by deserters from their ranks." 1 Another fundamental 
idea of Comte's is that the entire intellectual and political move- 
ment at the end of the eighteenth century and in the first half 
of the nineteenth was a revolutionary movement that resulted in 
moral and political anarchy because the feudal monotheistic 
system had been destroyed and nobody had been able to find 
a substitute for it. In line with this idea Comte severely con- 
demned the parliamentary system as a manifestation of the 
anarchic period (in which we are still living) ; and the representa- 
tive function itself, whereby inferiors choose their superiors, 
Comte defined as a revolutionary function. 2 

It will be more to our purpose to dwell on the second theory 
mentioned (9), that is to say, on the modification that Spencer, 
and a host of modern sociologists after him, made in Comte's 

* Ibid., vol. IV, p. 83. 

8 IMd. t vol. IV, chap. 5, especially pp. 368, 382, 808-94. 


doctrines. Spencer divided human societies into two types, 
the militant (i.e., military), based upon force, and the industrial, 
based upon contract and the free consent of the citizens. This 
dual classification is propounded more especially in Spencer's 
Principles of Sociology, but it is regularly assumed in most of 
his other writings, as well as in the works of his numerous 

Any classification has to be based upon distinctive traits 
that are clear and definite, and Spencer, in fact, does not fail to 
serve warning at the outset that, although "during social 
evolution there has habitually been a mingling of the two types 
[the militant and the industrial], we shall find that, alike in 
theory and in fact, it is possible to trace with due clearness these 
opposite characters which distinguish them in their respective 
complete developments/' 1 Spencer's fundamental criterion is 
that the militant society is based on status, on "regimenta- 
tion," "the members standing towards one another in successive 
grades of subordination," 2 and on the supervision, therefore, 
and the coercion, which the governors exercise over the governed. 
His industrial society is based upon contract, upon the free 
consent of its members, in exactly the same way as a literary 
society, or an industrial or commercial partnership, is based 
on the free consent of the associated members and could not 
exist without such consent. 

Now, for a first general objection, this classification is based 
upon eminently aprioristic assunfptions which do not stand the 
test of facts. Any political organization is both voluntary and 
coercive at one and the same time voluntary because it arises 
from the very nature of man, as was long ago noted by Aristotle, 
and coercive because it is a necessary fact, the human being 
finding himself unable to live otherwise. It is natural, therefore, 
and at the same time indispensable, that where there are men 
there should automatically be a society, and that when there is a 
society there should also be a state that is to say, a minority 
that rules and a majority that is ruled by the ruling minority. 

1 Principles of Sociology* vol. II, chap. XVtl ("The Militant Type of Society"), 
547, p. 568. "The Industrial Type of Society" is discussed in chap. XVIII. 
Chapter XIX, "Political Retrospect and Prospect," relates to the past and 
future of the two types. 

vol. II, chap. XVII, 553. 


It might be objected that, although the existence of a social 
organization is natural and necessary wherever human groups 
or multitudes form, there are states that receive the assent, 
or at least the tacit acquiescence, of the great majority of 
the individuals who belong to them, and states that do not 
attain that condition. We do not deny that things stand exactly 
that way, but still we do not see why the former should be called 
industrial states and the latter militant states, in the sense that 
Spencer attaches to the terms. The majority of a people 
consents to a given governmental system solely because tjie 
system is based upon religious or philosophical beliefs that are 
universally accepted by them. To use a language that we 
prefer, the amount of consent depends upon the extent to which, 
and the ardor with which, the class that is ruled believes in the 
political formula by which the ruling class justifies its rule. 
Now, in general, faith of that kind is certainly greater not in 
Spencer's industrial states but in states that Spencer classifies 
as militant, or which present all the characteristics that he 
attributes to militant states states where an absolute and 
arbitrary government is based on divine right. 

In the monarchies of the Near East there are often con- 
spiracies against the persons of sovereigns, but down to a few 
years ago attempts to set up new forms of government were very 
rare. Among all the nations of modern Europe before the 
World War, Turkey and Russia were the ones where govern- 
mental systems were most in harmony with the political ideals 
of the great majority in their populations. Only small educated 
minorities were systematically opposed to the rule of the czar 
and the sultan. In all barbarous countries populations may be 
dissatisfied with their rulers, but ordinarily they neither conceive 
of better political systems nor desire any. 

We can hardly agree, either, with certain applications that 
Spencer makes of his categories to particular cases. Spencer 
seems to have thought of an industrial state as a sort of demo- 
cratic state, a state, at any rate, in which government is based on 
representation, or in which there is at least a tendency not to 
recognize any authority as legitimate unless it emanates from 
some public assembly. He says: "Such control as is required 
under the industrial type can be exercised only by an appointed 
agency for ascertaining and executing the average will; and a 


representative agency is the one best fitted for doing this." 1 
He therefore classifies the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico and 
Arizona with societies of the industrial type because, "sheltering 
in their walled villages and fighting only when invaded, they 
. . . united with their habitually industrial life a free form of 
government: . . . *the governor and his council were annually 
elected by the people/ " 2 Now Spencer could not have been 
unaware how widely common the elective system was in the 
republics of ancient Greece, in Rome, and even among the 
ancient Germans, who chose their leaders by acclamation, 
raising them on high on their shields. Nevertheless, all those 
peoples, according to Spencer's own criteria, would be classified 
as militant peoples. On the other hand, we should hardly be 
able to call them industrial peoples, in Spencer's sense. The fact 
that a people participates in electoral assemblies does not mean 
that it directs its government or that the class that is governed 
chooses its governors. It means merely that when the electoral 
function operates under favorable social conditions it is a tool 
by which certain political forces are enabled to control and 
limit the activity of other political forces. 

12. Spencer finds certain distinguishing characteristics in his 
militant and industrial types that seem to us exceedingly vague 
and indefinite. He writes that as militarism decreases and 
industrialism increases proportionately, a social organization 
in which the individual exists for the benefit of the state develops 
into another organization in which the state exists for the benefit 
of the individual. 3 That is a subtle distinction. It reminds 
one of the debate as to whether the brain exists for the benefit 
of the rest of the body or the rest of the body for the benefit 
of the brain. 

Spencer elsewhere finds that the militant state is "positively 
regulative," in the sense that it requires the performance of 
certain acts, while the industrial state is "negatively regulative 
only," 4 since it confines itself to specifying acts that must not 
be performed, and he gives his blessing to states of the negatively 

1 lUd.> 566, p. 508. 

* im.> vol. II, chap. XVIII, 513, p. 616. 

/&., chap, XVIIL 


12] SPENCEE 99 

regulative variety. As a matter of fact, no social organization 
has ever existed in which control is not simultaneously positive 
and negative. Furthermore, since human activity has its 
limits, multiplication of negative injunctions is almost as bad, 
as regards fettering individual initiative, as excessive regulation 
in a positive sense. 

Spencer relates to his two types of state traits that we would 
explain and classify otherwise. In ancient Peru, for instance, 
public officials superintended agriculture and distributed water 
(probably for purposes of regular irrigation or else in areas and 
at times of extreme drought). Spencer finds that trait char- 
acteristic of militant states. We should think of it simply as a 
phenomenon of over-bureaucratization. Then again, Spencer, 
quoting Brant6me, finds the practice of the private vendetta 
still common in France in the late Middle Ages, even among the 
clergy, and he regards the institution as a symptom of militancy. 
We, for our part, should expect to find such phenomena as the 
vendetta conspicuous in peoples among whom social authority 
is weak, or recently has been weak peoples, in other words, 
who are in the period of crude and primitive organization which 
we defined as feudal, or who have recently emerged from it. 
Wherever the vendetta flourishes, and therefore among almost 
all barbarous peoples, or peoples whose social organization has 
greatly decayed, it is natural that personal courage should be a 
much esteemed quality. In fact, the same thing occurs in any 
society which, for one reason or another, has had to fight many 
wars of defense and offense. It is natural that bravery and 
bombast should be the attributes that confer prestige and 
influence in barbarous societies, the low level of culture not 
permitting aptitudes for science or for the production of wealth 
to develop and to win esteem. 

Spencer believes that militant societies are protectionist 
societies and vice versa. He finds in them a tendency to live 
on their own economic resources with the least possible resort 
to international exchange. In our opinion that tendency is, 
more than anything else, a consequence of crudeness and isolation 
in primitive peoples. In modern civilized nations it results from 
popular prejudices that are exploited in the interests of a few 
individuals, who are expert in the arts of serving their own 
advantage at the expense of the many. It is very probable 


that the tribes which are so often mentioned by Spencer as 
typical of primitive industrial societies profited very little from 
exchange with other tribes; and in our day protectionist doctrines 
have, alas, no less influence in "industrial" North America 
than in "militant" Germany. 

It would be a mistake, according to Spencer, to identify 
industrial societies by the degree of economic development 
that they attain, or militant societies by the energy they develop 
and the success they achieve in war. Now superficial as such 
criteria might be, they would have the advantage of being 
very simple and easily applied. But Spencer himself directly 
or indirectly warns that they are to be rejected. With regard 
to the first, he notes that "industrialism must not be confounded 
with industriousness " and that "the social relations which 
characterize the industrial type may coexist with but very 
moderate productive activities." 1 As regards the second, 
Spencer would allow one to assume that the Roman Republic 
was less militant than the Near Eastern empires which were 
subdued by Rome, and following the same reasoning, the English 
would be less advanced toward the industrial type than the 
Hindus whom they conquered in India. 

Despite these objections and still others that might be urged 
against Spencer's classification, it cannot be denied that with its 
aid he glimpsed a great truth but as through a cloud, so to 
speak, of misunderstanding. If we follow not so much Spencer's 
criteria of classification as the mass of his incidental assertions, 
and especially the spirit that animates his work as a whole, we 
cannot fail to see that by a "militant state" he means a state in 
which juridical defense has made little progress and by an "indus- 
trial state" another type of society in which justice and social 
morality are much better safeguarded. 

The misunderstanding that kept Spencer from going farther 
than he went in the discovery of a great scientific principle lay 
in this: impressed by the fact that material violence has been, 
as it still is, one of the greatest obstacles to progress in juridical 
defense, he believed that war and the need of military organi- 
zation were the causes of all violence. But to view the problem 
in that light is to confuse the cause with one of its effects. It 
means taking war as the sole origin of the tendency in human 

1 Ibid., 502, pp. 603-604. 


nature to tyrannize over one's fellows, whereas war is just one of 
the many manifestations of that tendency. Now in the external 
relations between people and people, that tendency can be 
curbed only by the greater and greater prevalence of material 
interests rightly understood. The curb operates only among 
peoples that have attained high economic and scientific levels, 
because it is only under highly civilized conditions that war 
infallibly harms, though still in varying degrees, both victors 
and vanquished. In internal relations between individual 
members of one people the tendency in question can be to an 
extent neutralized, as we have seen, only by a multifarious inter- 
play of such political forces as are able to assert themselves in a 
society, and by the control they are able to exercise over one 
another reciprocally. 

How is it that among the various ruling cliques, among the 
various political forces, the section that represents material 
force, in other words the army, is not always upsetting, the 
juridical equilibrium in its own favor and forcing its will system- 
atically upon the state? Certainly the possibility that that 
may occur is a standing danger to which all societies are exposed. 
It is a danger especially to societies that are rapidly rejuvenating 
their political forces or hastily overhauling their political formu- 
las. We are, therefore, obliged to examine the relations that 
obtain between military organization and juridical defense in 
order to discover, if possible, the best methods for dealing with 
that danger. It is a most important subject, and we shall later 
go into it in some detail. 

For the present we might simply remark that the foregoing 
criticism of Spencer's conception of war and military power was 
made from a theoretical point of view. But neither can we 
approve of his doctrine in respect of a number of practical 
applications that he more or less directly suggests. Of the 
various forms of military organization Spencer shows a pre- 
dilection for forms in which the soldier, "volunteering on 
specified terms, acquires in so far the position of a free worker"; 
and he thinks that such an organization is best suited to a 
society "where the industrial type is much developed." 1 That 
means, in other terms, that those elements in a society which 
have a* greater inclination toward the bearing of arms ought 

1 Ibid., 562, p. 603. 


voluntarily to assume responsibility for military defense both at 
home and abroad, for a compensation which, in the military 
trade as in any other, would be fixed by market conditions. 
Now it seems to us and so it seemed to Machiavelli and to 
many others after him that, apart from special and exceptional 
circumstances, that is the system that yields the positively 
worst results among peoples of high cultural levels. It is the 
one that develops most readily in the military class the tendency 
to oppress other classes, while it deprives the latter of any chance 
of effective resistance and strips them of any protection. 


1. We have just seen thatM&very social type has a tendency to 
concentrate into a single political organism. We must now add 
that the political organism, in expanding, almost always aims at 
spreading its own social type, and often succeeds in doing s^. 

f We find this aspiration in remotest antiquity. It was satisfied 
in very early days by gross, violent and barbarous means, which 
were, however, effective. The Assyrians were accustomed to 
transplant conquered peoples. Torn by force from their native 
soils, these were scattered about among groups that were Assyrian 
in spirit and nationality, and in the end were absorbed by them) 1 
Assyrian colonists were often settled in their turn in conquered 
territories. The Incas of Peru were likewise given to trans- 
planting en masse the savage tribes they conquered, the more 
readily to tame them to Peruvian ways and assimilate them to the 
other subjects of the Son of the Sun. In the Middle Ages, 
after wiping out the Saxons in large part, Charlemagne trans- 
ferred numerous colonies of Franks to their lands, and the district 
thus settled afterward came to be called Franconia. Some cen- 
turies later the Teutonic Knights spread the German tongue and 
the Christian religion from the banks of the Elbe to the mouths 
of the Vistula and the Niemen by similar means that is, by deci- 
mating the native populations and settling numerous German 
colonies on the conquered lands. The chief inspirer and executive 
of this policy of far-reaching colonization was the Grand Master 
Hermann von Salza. 

Similar methods were used on occasion by the Romans, but 
not as a regular policy. For example, they were never applied 
to the highly civiliaed populations of the East, and even in Gaul, 
Spain and Britain the empire assimilated the barbarians princi- 
pally by establishing the Latin language and Roman law and 

1 As must have happened, in large part, to the flower of the Ten Tribes of 
Israel, which were transported beyond the Euphrates. 



spreading Greco-Latin literature and learning in short, by 
extending the benefits of an admirably organized public admin- 
istration and a superior civilization. 1 

On the whole, religious propaganda and the offering of a higher 
level of culture are the most effective means of assimilating 
subject peoples. By those means Mexico, Peru and many other 
countries in South America took the imprint of Spanish and 
Portuguese civilization in the course of a few centuries, though 
the populations of those countries were to remain largely non- 
Iberian in blood. 

2. (But oftentimes a differing social type will survive, for some 
centuries at least, in spite of the fact that the hegemony or 
dominion of a conquering people weighs heavily upon the elements 
that belong to it. In the ancient Persian empire the fire-worship- 
ing Medo-Persians were in the ascendant. Their sovereign was 
King of Kings and commanded all other sovereigns within his 
vast empire. But the subject populations, ruled by satraps or 
even by their old native dynasties, kept their beliefs, habits and 
customs intact. They did not forsake their own social type in 
favor of the Medo-Persian type} In the case of certain tribes, 
which lived in the very middle of the empire but were protected 
by their warlike habits and by the natural strength of their 
positions, subjection was more apparent than real. The fact 
appears very clearly from Xenophon's account of the retreat 
of the Ten Thousand for instance, the stories of Syennesis, king 
of Cilicia, and of the march through the lands of the Karduchians, 
the Mosynaecians and other peoples along the south shore of the 
Black Sea. In spite of this the court of Susa was able to rule a 
huge straggling empire for almost two centuries, and from the 
end of the reign of Darius, son of Hystaspes, down to the invasion 
of Alexander the Great there were no very troublesome rebellions, 
except possibly in Egypt. One should note, however, that the 
empire crumbled at the first fairly serious shock. There was no 
real cohesion between the subject and the dominant peoples, nor 
were their social forces unified and cemented by sound administra- 
tive and military systems. The neo-Persian empire of the 
Sassanids was much smaller than the old, but the peoples within 
it were held together in common brotherhood by the teachings 
1 Mommsen, The Provinces of the Roman Empire. 


of the Avesta. It rode out more violent storms than the old 
Persian empire had suffered, and more numerous ones. It lasted 
for more than four centuries. 

We find differing social types existing side by side even in 
modern states. Turkish cities used to have their Greek, Arme- 
nian and Jewish quarters, and in the Balkan country Osmanli 
villages often adjoined Greek and Bulgarian villages. In India, 
Brahmans, Mohammedans, Parsees and Europeans live side by 
side.\^00ne peculiar thing about the Orient, indeed, is that it 
seems to be a sort of museum for collecting and preserving the 
loose ends and tags of social types that are elsewhere absorbed 
and vanish. This comes about either because the governments 
of the Orient possess fewer social forces, and therefore less power 
of assimilation, than European states, or else because there is 
more real tolerance in the East than there is among us. One 
need only recall how completely the many prosperous Moham- 
medan colonies in Sicily and Spain vanished within a century or 
so after losing their political dominion. More recently, in the 
Balkan Peninsula, the moment a country escaped from the 
sultan's rule, its Mohammedan population dwindled rapidly and 
sometimes disappeared altogether. 

^^i^When a state is made up of a mixture of social types, the ruling 
class should be recruited almost entirely from the dominant type; 
and if that rule is not observed, because the dominant type is too 
weak either in numbers or in moral and intellectual energies, 
then the country may be looked upon as a sick country that 
stands on the brink of serious political upheavals, y/ 

This was the case in the Turkey of the surfan during the 
century just past. On coming into intimate contact, and into 
conflicts of interests, with European civilization, Turkey had to 
use large numbers of Greeks, Armenians and even Europeans in 
her ruling class. Now, as has been soundly observed, that policy 
provided her with some of the resources of a superior civilization; 
but it deprived the Turkish ruling class of much of its savage 
vigor, and in fact did not save the sultan from losing considerable 
portions of his territory. (In India, the British conquerors have 
so far been vastly superior to the Hindus in civilization, but 
being few in number, they are accepting the assistance of natives 
in public administration, in the courts and in the army. If the 
share assigned to these native elements in public functions 


becomes so large as to make it possible to dispense with Euro- 
peans, it is doubtful whether European rule can very long endure 
in that country) 

I When a number of differing social types are mixed together in 
o&e state, a directing, if not strictly a ruling, class almost inevi- 
tably develops within the types that are in subjection. Some- 
times this class is the first to be absorbed by the ruling type. The 
Gallic aristocracy, for instance, became rapidly Romanized. It 
acquired the classical and juridical culture of the Latins within a 
few generations and was soon clamoring for Roman citizenship, 
which was readily granted. So, after the battle of Kossovo, the 
begs of Bosnia went over to Islamism in order to save theif 
possessions and avoid dropping to the level of the downtrodden 
raias. But the aristocracies in question in both these cases had 
no great culture and, more important still, they were not heirs 
to any particular memories of an ancient and glorious national 
past. More often, traditions of an ancient greatness, a sense of 
group superiority, along with an instinctive repugnance to the 
intruding social type, are strong enough to overcome personal 
interests, and then the upper strata in the vanquished classes 
become the most unassimilable element. Members of the noble 
Fanariot families in Constantinople have rarely been known to 
accept conversion to Islamism. The Copts of today follow pro- 
fessions as scribes and public clerks and seem to descend in a 
direct line from the lettered class which made up the aristocracy 
in ancient Egypt. They remain Christian, though the mass of 
peasants, or fellahin, have been Mohammedans for centuries. 
The Ghebers of today, who still maintain fire worship, seem to 
descend from the old Persian aristocracy. In India the highest 
castes have supplied fewest converts to Islamism. 

Now we come to a social phenomenon that is less apparent 
to the eye but is perhaps more important. The case where 
several social types coexist in guises more or less masked within 
a single political organism may be noted In countries that present 
all the appearances of strong social unity. This situation arises 
whenever the political formula, on which the ruling class in a 
given society bases its dominion, is not accessible to the lower 
classes, or when the complex of beliefs and moral and philosophical 
principles that underlie the formula have not sunk deeply enough 


into the consciousness of the more populous and less well educated 
strata of society. The same thing occurs when there is any con- 
siderable difference between the customs, culture and habits of 
the ruling class and those of the governed classes,,^ 

A few examples will make this clearer. In Rome and ancient 
Greece the slave was kept wholly outside the "city," considered 
as a political body, a moral community. He did not share in 
the national education. He was not co-interested either materi- 
ally or spiritually in the welfare of the state. The Indian pariah 
is regarded as outside every caste. He is not allowed even to 
have the same gods as his oppressors. Isolated completely from 
the rest of the population, he represents a class of individuals 
that is spiritually alien to the social type within which it lives. 
The Hebrews, on the other hand, and other peoples of the ancient 
Orient, regarded the laborer and the slave, once they had been, 
so to say, nationalized, as sharers in the sentiments of the society 
to which they belonged. The idea of carefully cultivating the 
sentiments, beliefs and customs of the lower classes by suitable 
catechization was one of the great merits of Christianity and 
Islamism. These religions have been more or less effectively 
imitated in that respect by modern European nations. 

As a rule it is the very ancient political formulas, complexes of 
beliefs and sentiments which have the sanction of the ages, that 
succeed in making their way into the lowest strata of human 
societies. On the other hand^^when rapid flows of ideas agitate 
the higher classes, or the more active intellectual centers, which 
are generally located in large cities, the lower classes and the 
outlying districts of a state are likely to be left behind, and 
differing social types tend to form inside the society. p*/ 

Greater or lesser spiritual unity among all social classes 
explains the strength or weakness that political organisms exhibit 
at certain moments. However grievously the governing class in 
Turkey may have sinned on the side of corruption, inefficiency 
and negligence army, navy, and finance were completely dis- 
organized in the domains of the Sublime Porte nevertheless, at 
certain definite moments, when the Crescent seemed to be in 
danger, the Turkish people displayed a fierce energy that gave 
pause to Europe's strongest military states. The reason was 
that the poor nizam, ragged and barefoot, who fearlessly went to 
his death in a trench, the redif who left his hut at the sultan's 


summons, really felt the political formula which they were called 
upon to serve and stood ready to give their last para and even 
their lives to support it. The Turkish peasants in Rumelia and 
Anatolia believed sincerely and deeply in Islam, in the Prophet, 
in the sultan as the Prophet's vicar, and the beliefs for which 
they were asked to make the utmost sacrifices were the beliefs 
that ordinarily filled their lives and made up their moral and 
intellectual worlds. 

This analysis bears on events prior to 1895, yet we cannot see 
that they require any great modification in the light of the events 
of 1912-1913, or the events connected with the World War or 
the rise of Kemal Atatiirk. The Turkish disasters in the Balkan 
and World Wars were due to the disorganization and incapacity 
of the Turkish ruling class, intensified by thirty years of Hamidian 
despotism and by four years of rule by the Young Turks. But in 
the World War, Kut-el-Amara showed that the Turkish soldier 
could fight and die for the faith that was in him; and we say 
nothing of the tremendous Turkish uprising of 190 that over- 
threw the Treaty of Sevres, swept the Greeks from Asia Minor 
and set up the present Angora regime. 

In spite of the talents of men like Kutuzov, Barclay de Tolly, 
Benningsen, Doktorov and Bagration, no one can deny that 
the average training and capacity of the Russian generals with 
whom Napoleon had to deal was decidely inferior to Austrian of 
Prussian standards. The famous Suvarov knew his Russian 
soldier well and had a way of leading him to the most daring 
enterprise. But Suvarov was after all a courageous leader 
rather than an able one. The Russian soldier was the adversary 
that Napoleon most feared. In the famous Moscow campaign 
the failure of the invading army was caused not so much by cold, 
hunger or desertion as by the hatred that gathered about the 
French and harried them from Vitebsk on in other words, from 
the time they entered strictly Russian territory. It was this 
hatred that inspired the sinister fury of the Russians to the point 
of destroying all provisions along the path of the enemy and 
burning all tow*ns and villages between Smolensk and Moscow. 
It gave Rostopchin the courage to burn Moscow itself. For the 
Russian muzhik God, the czar, Holy Russia, formed an integral 
unit in the beliefs and sentiments that he had begun to absorb on 


the day of his birth and which he had learned by home tradition 
to revere. 

This same moral unity holds the secret of other successful and 
quasi-miraculous cases of resistance, just as lack of it yields the 
secret of certain shameful demonstrations of weakness. The 
Vendee was strong in the wars of the Revolution because nobles, 
priests and peasants had the same beliefs, the same desires, the 
same passions. Spain was strong in 1808 because the Spanish 
grandee and the lowliest Spanish shepherd were alike filled with 
hatred for the French invader (whom they regarded as a godless 
unbeliever), with loyalty to their sovereign, with pride in being 
a self-respecting, independent nation. This unanimity of senti- 
ment, in spite of the incapacity of the Spanish generals and the 
utter worthlessness of the Spanish regular armies, accounts for 
the miracles of Saragossa and Tarragona and for the final victory 
that crowned the Spanish wars for independence. Never would 
the most ragged peasant consent, under whatever threat, to show 
the roads to the French. The regular Spanish army was com- 
posed largely of raw recruits and it had no experienced officers. 
Its ineffectual ness is attested not only by French writers but 
by letters of the Duke of Wellington and other English officers. 1 
On the other hand, Spain showed the utmost weakness during 
the French Legitimist invasion of 18. At that time only a 
small portion of the upper classes had any comprehension of, or 
devotion to, the principle of constitutional monarchy which was 
at issue. That principle was incomprehensible to the majority 
ot4he upper classes and to the vast bulk of the nation. 

The kingdom of Naples showed weakness in the years 1798 
and 1799 in spite of many acts of desperate valor on the part of 
individuals or groups. The mass of the population, to be sure, 
and a majority of the middle and upper classes hated the French 
Jacobins and revolutionary ideas in general. They were fanati- 
cally loyal to the legitimate monarchy and still more so to the 
Catholic faith. However, a small minority in the upper classes, 
scant in number but strong in intelligence, enthusiasm and 
daring, despised the sentiments of their fellow countrymen and 
had warm sympathies for the French gospel of freedom. Trea- 

l See the histories of Thiers (book XLVI, vol. XV) and Toreno, and the 
M$moire9 militoirea of O^nel Vigo de Boussillon. 


son, therefore and, more than treason, the unending suspicion of 
treason, paralyzed all resistance, disorganized the regular army, 
which was a poor army to begin with, and diminished the effec- 
tiveness of a spontaneous popular resistance which, save for 
treasonable understandings, real or imagined, with the invaders, 
might have triumphed. As is well known, Championnet's army 
had halted before Capua but was invited and encouraged by the 
Neapolitan republicans to attack Naples. This attack would 
not have been made, and in any case would probably have failed, 
had it not been for the treasonable surrender of Castel Sant' Elmo 
and a rear attack on the defenders of the Capuan gate both acts 
by Neapolitan republicans. Those acts explain the terrible 
reprisals, not only royal but popular, that followed the collapse of 
the ephemeral Parthenopean Republic, 

4. So far we have been thinking largely of differences in 
religious and political beliefs between the various social strata; 
but disparities in intellectual cultivation and differences in lan- 
guage, habits and family customs also have their importance. 

We are accustomed to taking for granted the distinctions that 
exist between the class that has received a polished literary and 
scientific education and the classes that have received none at all 
or have stopped at the first rudiments between the "social set" 
that has the habits and manners of good breeding and the 
populous throngs that lack good breeding. We readily assume, 
therefore, that the same distinctions exist, equally sharp and 
equally thoroughgoing, in all human societies and have always 
existed in our own countries. That is not at all the case. In 
the Mohammedan East no such distinctions appear, or if they 
do, they are infinitely less conspicuous than they are among us. 1 
In Russia the profound difference between the class called the 
"intelligentsia" and the muzhiks, or between those same "intel- 
lectuals " and the long-bearded merchants that were so frequently 
to be seen in the days of the czar, could not have existed in 
the age of Peter the Great, when there were no universities the 
boyars of that day were almost as crude and unlettered as the 
peasants. Even in western Europe hardly more than two cen- 

1 This fact, which is attested by Renan and other writers, is obvious to anyone 
who has had any experience at all with Mohammedan societies and Mohammedan 


turies ago, disparities among the various social classes in intel- 
lectual cultivation and in public and private manners were far 
less striking than they are today. Such disparities have grown 
more and more marked, but the trend dates from not earlier than 
the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. ; In France, for example, 
Voltaire declares, 1 that when Louis XIV actually assumed the 
throne, in 1660, the French nobility were rich in natural intelli- 
gence but ignorant and crude in manners. In England, toward 
the end of the eighteenth century, Cobbett pointed to the differ- 
ence between the farmers of the good old days that is, when 
he was a boy and those of the time when he was writing. 
Formerly, he says, farmers had lodged and fed all their peasants, 
sat with them at their great oaken boards and, after a prayer 
from the curate, drunk the same beer. Then customs changed. 
The wage earner drew his pay and went to eat his meal alone in 
some tavern. The farmer became a "gentleman," using glass 
bottles, ebony-handled forks, ivory-handled knives and porcelain 
dishes. His sons would, if necessary, be clerks, copyists, shop- 
boys, but in no case farmers. 

A similar change has taken place during the last hundred and 
fifty years among the landlords, great and small, of Sicily and 
the district of Naples. Their great-grandfathers may have been 
rich but in any case they were peasants. Now, they may be poor 
but in any case they are gentlemen they are galantuomini 
(the term galantuomo in the local dialects means a person of 
quality, of polite up-bringing). Strange as it may seem at first 
glance, the trend here in question coincides with the birth and 
growth of that current of ideas and sentiments which generally 
goes by the name of democracy, and it constitutes one of the more 
curious contrasts between the democratic theories that are now so 
generally in vogue and their practical application. 

Disparities in upbringing among the various social classes are 
likely to become more marked in bureaucratized societies. In 
societies of feudal type the individual members of the ruling class 
are generally sprinkled about among their followers. They 
live in constant contact with them and have to be, in a sense, 
their natural leaders. It may seem surprising that in the Middle 
Ages, when the baron stood alone in the midst of his vassals and 
dealt with them harshly, they did not take advantage of their 

1 Sttcle de Louis XIV. 


numerical superiority to break free. But actually that could not 
always have been an easy matter. Superior as they may have 
been in energy and in familiarity with arms to the rest of the 
subject elements, the vassals were more or less bound to the lot 
of their lords. But, independently of that, another consider- 
ation of very great importance must not be overlooked. The 
baron knew his vassals personally. He thought and felt as they 
did. He had the same superstitions, the same habits, the same 
language. He was their master, harsh sometimes and arbitrary. 
For all of that, he was a man whom they understood perfectly, in 
whose conversation they could share, at whose table, be it in a 
humbler station, they often sat, and with whom they sometimes 
got drunk. It requires utter ignorance of the psychology of the 
lower classes not to see at once how many things this real familiar- 
ity, based on an identical education, or lack of education if one 
prefer, enables an inferior to endure and forgive. It may be 
objected that as a rule the poor dislike serving the newly rich. 
That is true, but other elements have to be taken into account in 
this regard. In the first place the man of recent wealth is likely 
to be envied. Then again he is often harder and greedier than 
the man who has been accustomed to ease from birth. Finally, 
instead of maintaining a community of habits and sentiments 
with the class from which he has sprung, the upstart almost 
always does his best to adopt the ways and manners of the higher 
class. His chief ambition and concern, usually, is to make people 
forget his origins. 

In the Middle Ages the first peasant revolts broke out not when 
feudalism was harshest but when the nobles had learned to 
associate with one another, when the courts of love a conscious 
quest of good manners (the gai saber) had begun to give them 
polish and alienate them from the rustic ways of the lonely castle. 
Mickiewicz makes an important observation in this connection. 
He finds that the Polish nobles were popular with the peasants 
as long as they lived in their midst. The peasants would suffer 
the very bread to be snatched from their mouths that their lord 
might buy horses and costly weapons for hunting and for sabering 
Turks and Russians. Then French education gained a foothold 
among the Polish nobles. They learned how to give balls after 
the manner of Versailles and began spending their time in learning 
to dance the minuet. From that day on peasantry and nobility 


became two peoples apart, and the peasants did not support the 
nobles with any great effectiveness in the wars they fought with 
foreigners late in the eighteenth century. 1 

So it was with the Celtic aristocracy in Ireland. According to 
Macaulay and other historians, the ancient nobility of the "OV 
and the "He's" was very popular with the peasants, whose 
labors supplied the head of the clan with such luxury as his 
coarse and abundant table could boast and whose daughters were 
sometimes levied for his rustic harem. But such nobles were 
looked upon virtually as members of the family. They were one 
with the peasants, it was thought, in blood. They certainly 
were one with them in habits and ideas. On the other hand, the 
English landlord, who supplanted the Irish, was probably a 
gentler sort of person, and he was beyond any doubt more law- 
abiding and more scrupulous in his demands. All the same he 
was bitterly hated. He was a stranger in language, religion and 
habits. He lived far away, and even when he resided on his 
properties he had by tradition acquired the habit of keeping to 
himself, having no contacts whatever with his dependents 
except such as were strictly necessary to the relation of master 
and servant. 

A follower of Gumplowicz might observe that in the case of 
Ireland the hatred that arose between landowners and peasants 
could be due to differences in race to the Celt's finding himself 
face to face with the Saxon, to use one of O'ConnelPs favorite 
expressions. But, the fact is, the first Anglo-Norman families 
that settled in Ireland during the Middle Ages, for example the 
Talbots or Fitzgeralds, lived long in that country, ended by 
adopting Celtic ways, and fought in the ranks of the Irish against 
the English in the various insurrections. 

But suppose we consider, rather, what happened in czarist 
Russia. There, certainly, there were no important racial differ- 
ences between nobles and peasants, but there were great differ- 
ences in social type and especially in manners. The cultured 
class, poor or rich as it may have been, had adopted European 
education. The rest of the population clung, as it still clings, to 
Asiatic ideas and customs. Tchernishevski, a Russian revolu- 
tionary of the 90*s, says, referring to the possibility of a peasant 

1 Histoire populaire de Pologne, 


Ignorant, full of gross prejudices, and blindly hating all who have 
forsaken primitive Russian ways [antipathy springing from differences 
in social type], the people would make no distinction between individuals 
who dressed in German styles [who had abandoned the traditional Rus- 
sian costume and were dressing in western European fashion]. It would 
treat them all alike, deferring neither to science, nor to poetry, nor to art. 
It would demolish our whole civilization. 1 

5. The fact is that the human being has sentiments which, taken 
individually, may be imponderable, hard to analyze and harder 
still to define, but which in sum are very powerful and may con- 
tribute to bringing on the most important social phenomena. 
The person who wrote that the human being lets himself be guided 
by self-interest alone stated a general maxim that is almost 
entirely devoid of practical value, since it can tell us nothing save 
at the cost of exceedingly minute analyses and distinctions. 
Anyone who thinks that interest has to be something that can 
be expressed materially in terms of money and measured in 
pounds and pence is a person of too little heart and too little head 
to understand the people about him. Interest is suited in each 
individual to the individual's own tastes, and each individual 
interprets his interest in his own individual way. For many 
people, to satisfy their pride, their sense of personal dignity, 
their vanities great and small, to humor their personal caprices 
and rancors, is worth far more than pleasures that are purely 
material. We must not forget such things, especially when we 
set out to analyze the relations between rich and poor, between 
superiors and inferiors, or, in short, between different social 
classes. When the elementary needs of life are to an extent 
satisfied, what mostly contributes to creating and maintaining 
friction and ill feeling between the various social classes is not so 
much differences in the enjoyment of material pleasures as 
membership in two different environments. For a part of the 
lower classes, at least, more bitter by far than any physical 
privation is the existence of a higher world from which they are 
excluded. No law, no hereditary privilege, forbids them to enter 
that world. It is roped off from them by a silken thread of the 
subtlest fiber a difference in education, in manners, in social 
habits. Only with difficulty is that thread ever broken. 

1 Leroy-Beaulieu, L* Empire des twrs et lea Russes, vol. II, pp. 524 f . 


Over and over again since very ancient times it has been written 
that in every city and in every state there are two hostile popula- 
tions that stand ever on the alert to harm each other the rich 
and the poor. Now that dictum does not appear to us to possess 
an unqualified, much less a universal, applicability. What we 
have just said may serve to explain the many exceptions and 
reservations that must accompany its acceptance. As a rule, 
the poor follow the lead of the rich, or rather the classes that are 
ruled follow the lead of the ruling classes, whenever they are 
imbued with the same opinions and beliefs and have been trained 
to intellectual and moral backgrounds that are not too dissimilar. 
The plebs, moreover, is a loyal associate of the upper classes in 
wars against foreigners, when the enemy belongs to a social type 
so alien as to arouse repugnance in rich and poor alike. So in 
Spain in 1808, and in the Vendee during the Revolution, peasants 
and nobles fought side by side, and the peasants never took 
advantage of the disorder, of the lawlessness, to plunder the 
houses of the nobles. One may doubt whether there is a single 
example of the poorer classes in a Christian country rising to 
support a Mohammedan invasion much less of the poorer 
classes in a Mohammedan country rising in support of a Christian 

Social democracy in central and western Europe professes 
indifference to the concept of nationality, and proclaims the 
alliance of the proletarians of all countries against the capitalists 
of the whole world. Those theories might have a certain practi- 
cal efficacy in the event of a war between the Germans and the 
French, or between the Italians and the English, since all these 
nations belong to approximately the same social type. But if it 
were a question of repelling a serious Tatar or Chinese invasion, or 
merely a Turkish or Russian invasion, we believe that the great 
majority of proletarians, even in countries where they are most 
strongly imbued with doctrines of world-wide collectivism, would 
eagerly cooperate with the ruling classes. 1 

Anyone who has done any great amount of traveling must have 
been struck by a fact that is not without significance. Very often 
the poor of different countries, as well, for that matter, as the rich 
of different countries, more readily fraternize than the rich and 

1 In the United States, Negroes, and especially Chinese, are generally excluded 
from labor unions. 


poor of the same country. To be strictly exact one should note 
that at the present time "cosmopolitanism" is much more 
strikingly characteristic of one element in the ruling class the 
element that has the greatest wealth and the greatest leisure 
than it is of the poor. But this cosmopolitan fraternizing arises 
only so long as peoples of approximately similar customs are con- 
cerned. If they go to faraway lands where ideas and ways are 
altogether new, the rich and the poor of one country, or even of 
merely neighboring countries, feel more closely drawn to each 
other than to foreigners of their own class. That is the case with 
Europeans in India and China, and in general in all countries 
where the civilization is markedly different from the European. 
All this is just another way of saying that sooner or later a point 
is reached where difference in social type as between members of 
different countries becomes greater than difference in social type 
as between classes in the same country. 

$. Psychological and intellectual isolation on the part of the 
lower classes, as well as too noticeable differences in beliefs and 
education between the various social classes, give rise to social 
phenomena that are very interesting to the student of the political 
sciences, dangerous as they may be to the societies in which they 
occur. / / 

In the first pla,ce$s a consequence of their isolation, within 
the lower classes another ruling class, or directing minority, 
necessarily forms, and often this new class is antagonistic to the 
class that holds possession of the legal government. 1 When this 
class of plebeian leaders is well organized it may seriously embar- 
rass an Official government^ In many Catholic countries the 
clergy is still the only authority that exerts any moral influence 
over the peasantry, and the peasants extend to the parish priest 
all the confidence that they withhold from the government 
official. In other countries, where the people look upon the public 
functionary and the nobleman if not exactly as enemies certainly 
as utter strangers, the more resolute and aggressive of the ple- 
beians sometimes succeed in organizing widespread and fairly 
permanent associations, which levy assessments, administer a 

1 THs phenomenon is something like the one we observed earlier in this 
chapter (2, last paragraph) in speaking of countries where differing social types, 
in the strict sense of the expression, exist side by side. 


special justice of their own and have their own hierarchies of 
officials, their own leaders, their own recognized institutions. So 
a real state within the state comes into being, a government that 
is clandestine but often more feared, better obeyed, and if 
not better loved certainly better understood, than the legal 
government. , , 

In the second plac^whenever and wherever a section of the 
ruling class tries to overthrow the legal government, whether 
because of Conversion to a new political formula or for some other 
reason, it always seeks the support of the lower classes, and these 
readily follow its lead when they are hostile or indifferent to the 
established order. This alliance is so often struck that the plebs 
becomes an essential instrument in almost all upheavals and 
revolutions, and to the same alliance also is due the fact that we 
so often find men from the higher social levels leading popular 
movements*/ Yet the opposite phenomenon also appears at 
times. The portion of the ruling class that is holding power and 
resisting the revolutionary current may find its main support in 
the lower classes, which still cling loyally to old ideas and to the 
old social type. That was the situation in Spain in 18 and 
down to 1830, and so it was with the Kingdom of Naples in 1799 
and more or less down to 1860. In such cases there may be 
periods of government by an ignorant, inept and vulgar dema- 
goguery which someone thought of defining as "the negation of 

But the most dangerous among the consequences that may 
result from differences in social type between the various social 
classes, and from the reciprocal isolation of classes that necessarily 
follows in their wake, is a decline in energy in the upper classes, 
which grow poorer and poorer in bold and aggressive characters 
and richer and richer in "soft/* remissive individuals. We have 
seen that that development is practically impossible in a state of 
the feudal type. In a society that is broken up into virtually 
independent fragments the heads of the individual groups have 
to be energetic, resourceful men. Their supremacy in large 
measure depends on their own physical or moral strength, which, 
moreover, they are continually exercising in struggles with their 
immediate neighbors. As social organization progresses and the 
governing class begins to reap the benefits of an improved bureau- 
cratic machine, its superiority in culture and wealth, and espe- 


cially its better organization and firmer cohesion, may compensate 
to some extent for the lack of individual energy; and so it may 
come about that considerable portions of the governing class, 
especially the circles that give the society its intellectual tone and 
direction, lose the habit of dealing with people of the lower classes 
and commanding them directly. This state of affairs generally 
enables frivolousness, and a sort of culture that is wholly abstract 
and conventional, to supplant a vivid sense of realities and a 
sound and accurate knowledge of human nature. Thinking loses 
virility. Sentimental and exaggeratedly humanitarian theories 
come to the fore, theories that proclaim the innate goodness of 
men, especially when they are not spoiled by civilization, or 
theories that uphold the absolute preferableness, in the arts of 
government, of gentle and persuasive means to severe authori- 
tarian measures. People imagine, as Taine puts it, that since 
social life has flowed blandly and smoothly on for centuries, like 
an impetuous river confined within sturdy dikes, the dikes have 
become superfluous and can readily be dispensed with, now that 
the river has learned its lesson. 

Tacitus described Germanic customs as eminently simple, 
frugal and virtuous. More than three centuries later, during the 
barbarian invasions, Salvian of Marseilles attributed the victories 
of the Goths, Vandals, Franks and other barbarians, to their 
moral superiority. According to Salvian, the invaders were 
chaste, temperate, truth-telling, whereas the Romans, and espe- 
cially the upper classes among the Romans, were fornicators, 
drunkards and liars. In describing the manners and customs of 
the Germans of his day Machiavelli evidently wrote under the 
influence of Tacitus. In the course of the last two centuries, 
many philosophers have raised paeans to the holiness of savage 
morals and to the rustic simplicity of the plain, untutored man. 
It would seem therefore that there is a frequent, if not a universal, 
tendency in very mature civilizations, where ruling classes have 
acquired highly refined literary cultures, to wax enthusiastic, by a 
sort of antithesis, over the simple ways of savages, barbarians 
and peasants (the case of Arcadia!), and to clothe them with all 
sorts of virtues and sentiments that are as stereotyped as they 
are imaginary. Invariably underlying all such tendencies is the 
concept that was so aptly phrased by Rousseau, that man is good 
by nature but spoiled by society and civilization. This notion 


has had a very great influence on political thinking during the 
past hundred and fifty years. 

A ruling class is the more prone to fall into errors of this kind 
the more closed it is, actually if not legally, to elements rising 
from the lower classes. In the lower classes the hard necessities 
of life, the unending and carking scramble for bread, the lack of 
literary culture, keep the primordial instincts of struggle and the 
unfailing ruggedness of human nature, alive. In any case, 
whether or not the factor of intellectual and moral isolation is 
reinforced by this factor of, so to gay, personal isolation, certain 
it is that when the ruling class has degenerated in the manner 
described, it loses its ability to provide against its own dangers 
and against those of the society that has the misfortune to be 
guided by it. So the state crashes at the first appreciable shock 
from the outside foe. Those who govern are unable to deal 
with the least flurry; and the changes that a strong and intelligent 
ruling class would have carried out at a negligible cost in wealth, 
blood and human dignity take on the proportions of a social 

One should note, as an example, that in the course of the 
nineteenth century England adopted peacefully and without 
violent shocks almost all the basic civil and political reforms that 
France paid so heavily to achieve through the great Revolution. 
Undeniably, the great advantage of England lay in the greater 
energy, the greater practical wisdom, the better political training, 
that her ruling class possessed down to the very end of the past 


1. We might very well dispense with defining the moral sense. 
It is something that we all feel and understand without a definite, 
carefully qualified formula to describe it. Generally, however, 
the phrase is taken to mean that mass of sentiments by which the 
natural propensity of human beings to develop their activities and 
capacities, to satisfy their appetites and impulses, to command 
and enjoy, is curbed by a natural compassion for the pain or 
harm that other people may experience from an indulgence of 
that propensity. Sometimes such sentiments are carried to a 
point where the spiritual satisfaction one derives from procuring 
pleasure or advantage for another is greater than the material 
satisfaction one derives from providing for one's own pleasure. 

When our limiting the satisfaction of our impulses at the cost 
of another's sacrifice rests on sentiments of affection for people 
who are close and dear to us, it is said to be based on " sympathy." 
When it is inspired solely by the respect that is due to other men, 
even strangers or enemies, simply because they are men, we get a 
sentiment that is far more delicate and not so generally felt by 
people the sentiment of "justice." Idealizations and exaggera- 
tions of these moral sentiments are crystallized in the well-known 
formulas, "Love thy neighbor as thyself," "Do unto others as you 
would that they should do unto you." These maxims, however, 
express an aspiration to a moral perfection that can never be 
attained rather than a practical counsel that is applicable in real 
life. Save for exceptions that arise almost exclusively in connec- 
tion with parental love, each individual is better qualified than 
anyone else to look out for himself; and if he is to look out for 
himself effectively he must love himself a little more than he loves 
others and deal with them otherwise than he deals with himself. 
One might well feel that all these cautions on our part were 
hardly required, for the fact is that, apart from some exceptional 
moment or some exceptional individual, people have never taken 
the maxims mentioned seriously. 



The question as to whether the moral sense is progressive or 
stationary has been much debated. As is well known, Buckle, a 
distinguished English writer of the past century, observed that 
the purest and loftiest ethical principles had been known and 
proclaimed in remotely ancient times, and he therefore main- 
tained that progress in human societies is almost exclusively 
intellectual and scientific, never moral. 1 The much followed 
evolutionist school of our day reaches essentially different con- 
clusions. According to the evolutionists the moral sense can, and 
must, continually progress in view of the struggle for existence, 
which selects for survival in every society the individuals who are 
richest in altruistic sentiments, these being the sentiments that 
best serve the interests of the social body. In the struggle for 
existence between different societies victory regularly goes to 
societies in which the same altruistic sentiments are, on the 
average, strongest. 2 

We had better examine these two doctrines briefly, just to 
show that neither of them can be taken as a basis for scientific 
conclusions. Suppose we begin with the second, which has so 
far won wider acceptance. 

2J We have already proved to our own satisfaction (chap. I, 
13) that, in a society that has attained any degree of civilization 
at all, the struggle between individuals is not a struggle for 
existence but a struggle for preeminence. But even ignoring 
that, we find altogether paradoxical the principle that is pro- 
claimed by these self-styled positivists, to the effect that within 
every social group those individuals who are most moral and 
therefore most highly endowed with altruistic sentiments are the 
ones who are destined to survive (in our terms, to attain the 
highest social rankings). All that we can grant in that regard 
and we grant it very willingly is that an individual who is 
particularly deficient in moral sense, and is unable to conceal his 
propensities sufficiently, will have to overcome greater difficulties 
than others because of the antipathy and repugnance that he will 
generally inspire.! But as far as that goes, an individual who has 
an unusually delicate moral sense will be at a disadvantage that is 

1 History of Civilization in England, vol. I, chap. IV (" Comparison between 
Moral and Intellectual Laws"). 

2 See Letourneau, Evolution de la morale, chap. I, 15. 


almost as serious. In all the dealings, great or small, of life, he 
will find himself fighting with altogether inferior weapons. Most 
men will use against him tricks that he will be thoroughly familiar 
with but will be careful not to use; and he will certainly suffer far 
greater damage from that fact than the sly rascal who knows just 
where to stop in his crookedness will ever suffer from the ill-will 
that he arouses about him. Really, one may be good almost 
unconsciously through a natural simplicity of character, or one 
may be consciously good through magnanimity of purpose, high 
resolve, unconquerable aversion to evil, inflexible integrity of 
character; but certainly one could never become good from 
believing that by being good one could more easily realize one's 
aims, or achieve what is commonly called success in life. Utili- 
tarianism interpreted in that sense, as the basis of morality, could 
only be, to speak quite plainly, the maneuver of a hypocrite or the 
dream of a fool. 

\It follows that, in all societies, so-called evolution, the selection 
of the best, ought to eventuate in a perpetuation and multiplica- 
tion of individuals of average morality, who are, in literal fact, 
the best adapted to what is called the struggle for existence. 
Survival, or, as we consider it more accurate to say, preeminence, 
ought preferably to await those characters who, in whatever sort 
of social environment, represent a moral mean of the most highly 
refined gold. And yet the evolutionary theory does not seem to 
become acceptable even with that basic emendation, since it 
assumes in any event that the moral element is always the main 
factor in the success or failure of an individual in achieving the 
aims that he sets out to achieve in lifey In practice things do not 
work out that way at all. To say nothing of the influence of 
chance, which is far greater than is commonly supposed, the 
possession in greater or lesser degree of certain intellectual 
qualities, such as readiness of perception and keenness of observa- 
tion, figures very considerably in the decision as to whether a man 
is to reach the higher ranks in his society or is to stay in the lower. 
But there is the very great influence also of other qualities, which 
depend upon the individual's temperament, without being, 
strictly speaking, either intellectual or moral such qualities as 
tenacity of purpose, self-confidence and, above all, activity. If 
we set out to judge whether an individual will or will not get on in 
|j| e whatever the type of society we find that we cannot use 


any singleWiterion, to be sure, but that if we would keep an eye 
on the main factor, we must watch and see whether he is active* 
and whether he knows how to make good use of his activity. 

Apart from brief periods of violent revolution, personal quali- 
ties are always less important, as regards attaining the highest 
positions in life, than birth or family. \ In any type of society, 
whether ostensibly democratic or otherwise, being born to a high 
station is one of the best claims a person can have to staying 
there. Families that have occupied the highest levels in the 
social scale for a number of generations often lack the qualities 
that are best fitted to carry a man from the bottom to the top, 
while they possess very different qualities in abundance/ Except 
in unusual cases that are due to careful education, old aristocratic 
families are not distinguished for activity. At the same time a 
real refinement of the moral sense may be detected in persons who 
have not had to fight fierce, shady, and often degrading battles 
in order to reach the top. |n a word, the virtues and defects that 
help a plebeian to force trie gates of an aristocracy are some- 
thing very different from the virtues and defects of aristocrats 

We can accept as true only one portion of the selectionist 
theory. One may safely grant that, other things being equal, in a 
struggle between two societies that society will triumph in which 
the individual members are on the average better equipped in 
moral sense and therefore more united, more trustful of each 
other and more capable of self-sacrifice. But that exception 
hurts the evolutionary thesis as a whole more than it helps it. If, 
in a given society, a higher average of moral sense cannot be 
explained by any survival of the best individuals, then, granting 
that the higher average is there, it can be ascribed only to the 
better organization of the society to causes, in other words, that 
are historical in nature and that are the worst enemies of those 
who try to explain social phenomena primarily by changes in the 
individual organism or in the individual "psyche." 

3. Though Buckle's theories are not as widely at variance with 
our point of view as the above, we feel unable to accept them 
without modifying or at least supplementing them to some 
extent. It is of course true that in very ancient societies we find 
maxims and laws that denote an exquisite moral sense. In the 


ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead, for instance, especially in 
parts of it that go back to a very remote antiquity, precepts very 
similar to the Ten Commandments are to be found 1 ; and papyri 
dating from the twelfth dynasty contain moral principles that 
are as good as anything in Christian or Buddhist ethics. The 
Platonists and the Stoics in the Greco-Roman world and the 
Essenes in the Hebrew world represented very high levels of 
morality, and numerous traces of the same ethics can easily be 
noted in Chinese, Indian and Persian civilizations long anterior to 
the Christian era. But though the precepts in question go back 
to very remote times, they were formulated and accepted by 
peoples who had very ancient civilizations, and whose moral 
sense, therefore, had undergone a long-protracted elaboration. 
Indeed, if any comparison is possible between the morality of a 
primitive tribe and the ethical system of a relatively civilized 
people that has been organized for long ages in great and populous 
political organisms, it is the comparison that can be made 
between the ethical systems of a child and an adult. The former 
is unconscious, the latter conscious. In the former good and bad 
impulses are roughly sketched. In the latter we find them fully 
developed and mature. Child and savage alike may do evil, and 
great evil, but in what they do blind animal impulse will always 
figure more largely than calculation and premeditation; and they 
may even do good without ever achieving that exquisite dis- 
crimination, that deliberate sacrifice of self, of which the adult 
human being and the civilized human being are capable. 

Making due allowances, of course, ethical feeling in the crude 
person stands to ethical feeling in the well-bred person much as 
the sense of morality in the child or the savage stands to the 
ethical system of the adult or the civilized man. What we call 
delicacy of feeling is just the intuition of a higher morality applied 
to a greater number of social relationships. European travelers 
in the interior of Africa have, in general, found the Arab adven- 
turers who foregather there preferable to the native Negroes. 
That is understandable. The Arabs are heirs to an ancient 
civilization. Though they are perfectly capable of treachery, 
theft and murder, they can, when they choose, assume the 
manners of gentlemen. They have some conception at least of a 
morality that is higher, and so more like our own. 

1 Lenormant, Maspero. 


But it is not only in greater refinement of moral and immoral 
impulses that civilized man differs from the savage. In societies 
of ancient culture that have for centuries enjoyed sound political 
organizations, the repression of immoral impulses what some 
criminologists call the " inhibition " that curbs impulses is 
unquestionably stronger and acquires all the force of inveterate 
habit. By a long and slow process of elaboration such societies 
gradually develop the institutions that enable a universal morality 
to curb the expression of individual immorality in a certain 
number of public and private relationships. When they are not 
under the sway of interests and passions, almost all individuals 
come to understand that a given act is not consistent with the 
sentiments of justice that prevail in the society in which they 
live. Still, the greater majority of individuals might commit that 
very act under stress of passion or at the bidding of an engrossing 

Now public opinion, religion, law, and the whole social mecha- 
nism that enforces observance of the law, are expressions of the 
mass conscience, which in the general case is dispassionate and 
disinterested as against the one, or the few, whose perception of 
what is just and honest is clouded at the given moment by the 
violence of selfish impulses. The judge is the instrument of the 
mass moral sense, which, case by case, curbs the passions and 
evil instincts of the individual and holds them in leash. 

feo in a highly developed civilization not only do moral instincts 
and for that matter selfish passions become more refined, 
more conscious, more perfect. In a society in which political 
organization has made great progress, moral discipline is itself 
unquestionably greater, and the too selfish acts that are inhibited, 
or obstructed, by the reciprocal surveillance and restraint of the 
individuals who compose the society are more numerous and more 
clearly defined. In every society, of course, there is a relatively 
small number of individuals who have tendencies that are 
definitely refractory to any sort of social discipline and, likewise, 
a certain number of individuals of superior scruples and soundly 
molded characters for whom any curb from without would be 
superfluous. But between these two extremes come the vast 
majority of men, who have average consciences, for whom fear of 
harm or punishment, and the fact that they are to be held 
responsible for their conduct by ot^ier people who are neither 


their accomplices nor their subordinates, serve as most effective 
means for overcoming the thousand temptations to transgress the 
moral law that everyday living offers) 

(The social mechanisms that regulate this disciplining of the 
moral sense constitute what we call "juridical defense" (respect 
for law, government by law). These mechanisms are not equally 
perfect in all societies. It may happen that a society that has 
advanced further than some other in the arts and sciences remains 
conspicuously inferior to that other in this respect. And it may 
also happen that juridical defense weakens and becomes less 
efficient in societies that are traversing periods of scientific and 
economic progress. 1 Great catastrophes, such as long wars or 
great revolutions, everywhere produce periods of social dissolu- 
tion, when the disciplining of selfish impulses falters, when habits 
that have long curbed them break and when brutish instincts 
that have been dulled but not eradicated by long periods of peac^ 
and civilized living come to life again f or if greater culture has 
succeeded in veiling them it has also steeled and sharpened them. 

po from time to time we see groups of adventurers from civi- 
lized countries, on coming into contact with barbarous peoples 
or peoples of a social type markedly different from theirs, feeling 
themselves loosed from ordinary moral restraints and perpe- 
trating the sort of crimes that won infamy for the Spanish 
conquerors in America, and for Hastings and Clive in India. 
The tremendous excesses of the Thirty Years' War, or of the 
French Revolution and other civil wars, become explainable by 
reference to these same criteria.! 

Characteristic is the picture that Thucydides paints of the 
demoralization that fell upon Greece after the struggles between 
different cities, and the civil wars within individual cities, which 
took place during the Peloponnesian War. It is interesting to 
note that all social cataclysms that destroy moral discipline are 
followed by periods of relaxation in that discipline itself, so that 
the level of morals is reestablished but very gradually. Letour- 
neau has well shown that intellectual progress is much more 
rapid among barbarians and sayages than moral progress. 2 This 

1 In his article "Foules et sectes au point de vue criminel" Tarde expresses the 
opinion that of late there has been a real decline in morals in modern European 
society and that the decline is due to social causes. 

2 La Sodologie d'aprds Vethnographie. 


phenomenon is apparent in civilized societies as they emerge 
from periods of social disorganization. It is due to the fact that 
moral habits are established and reestablished very slowly, but 
it contributes to lending a semblance of truth to Buckle's doctrine, 
that the moral sense is absolutely stationary. 

We have so far carefully avoided, it will be noted, any specula- 
tion as to the origins of the moral or altruistic instincts. For 
our purposes here, it is sufficient to observe that they are innate 
in man and necessary to social living. It will further be noted 
that our view is contrary to the doctrine of Rousseau, that man 
is good by nature but that society makes him wicked and per- 
verse. We believe that social organization provides for the 
reciprocal restraint of human individuals by one another and so 
makes them better, not by destroying their wicked instincts, 
but by accustoming them to controlling their wicked instincts. 

4{ The chief peoples that have had histories, or are now making 
them, entrust the disciplining of the moral sense not to religion 
only but to the whole legislative system. In the early periods of 
all peoples the secular enactment and the religious precept go 
absolutely hand in hand, and the sanctions that uphold the one 
uphold the other also. That is the case even today in some 
societies. But in our time, in countries of European and Chinese 
civilization, secular or civil organization and religious organiza- 
tion are more or less distinctly separated, the religious organization 
becoming more effective according to the strength of the faith 
that it manages to inspire and maintain, whereas the secular 
organization bases its progress on its success in conforming to 
certain psychological tendencies} 

fjt has long been debated whether the religious sanction, when 
taken apart from the political sanction, is more effective than the 
latter whether, in other words, fear of hell is worth more in 
actual practice than fear of jail and the policeman.] A definite 
answer, applicable to all the cases that might arise under the 
question, can hardly be given. Evidently a country in which 
political organization is slack and primitive while religious faith 
is ardent is in an essentially different situation from another 
country in which religious enthusiasms have deteriorated while 
political, administrative and judiciary systems have improved* 
Both religious precepts and secular laws emanate from the 


collective moral sense that is indispensable to all human associ- 
ations, and it is undeniable that all religions do have, as they 
could hardly fail to have, some practical influence. But there is 
reason to fear, nevertheless, that the importance of religion can 
easily be overestimated. If religion were so important, it would 
seem, for instance, that the moral difference between a Christian 
people and an idolatrous people should be very considerable. 
Now of course if we compare a civilized Christian people with a 
barbarous, idolatrous people, the moral discrepancy is enormous ; 
but if we place side by side two peoples of the same degree of 
barbarism, one of which has embraced Christianity and the other 
not, it will be found that in practice their behaviors are very 
much the same, or at least there is no appreciable difference 
between them. The modern Abyssinians are a living and notori- 
ous illustration of this fact. Cardinal Massaja was a missionary 
in Ethiopia for thirty-five years. He testifies to the scant 
practical influence of Christianity on the lives of the Abyssinians. 1 
If we compare the still pagan but politically well-organized 
society of the age of Marcus Aurelius with the Christian but very 
disorderly society that is described by Gregory of Tours, we very 
much suspect that the parallel would prove to be favorable to the 

lit is consistent with human nature that certain and speedy 
piinishment, however slight relatively, should be generally more 
feared than a far severer punishment that is uncertain and remote. 
For average consciences, at the moment when greed, lust or 
vengefulness spurs them to theft, rape or murder, fear of prison 
and the gallows is a more potent and, especially, a more certain 
deterrent than the possibility of eternal torment. If that is true 
for great breaches of the moral law, which are committed only 
in moments of violent passion, it is truer still of those petty 
violations of the more obvious precepts of fairness and justice into 
which human beings are misled by the daily pressures of petty 
interests and little jealousies.j Is there a moral or religious law 
that does not recognize that to pay one's debts is, on the whole, 
a just and proper thing? Yet one has to confess that many good 
believers would fail to pay theirs, and would find a thousand 
sophistries and pretenses to uphold their own consciences in 
doing so, if they were not held to their obligations by public 

1 / miei trentacinque anni di missione in Etiojria. 


disgrace and, above all, by the process server. It takes no over- 
delicate conscience to understand that to pummel and beat 
another person is, at the very best, not a decorous thing to do; yet 
the habit of laying hands on one's neighbor in the moment of 
anger is effectively combatted in the masses only by the certainty 
that the man who deals a blow runs the chance of promptly 
receiving another in return and that the business may easily go 
farther than that. As the weakest and most defenseless of 
human beings, women and children should be the ones most 
entitled to protection from the religious and moral sentiments; 
but we see only too regularly, alas, that in actual fact they are 
the most frequent victims of brutal physical assaults. In very 
religious countries, where the lower classes are completely at the 
mercy of the higher, it is no unusual thing to see masters beating 
their servants or other subordinates. 

Religious faith, like patriotic enthusiasms and political pas- 
sions, may at moments of extraordinary exhilaration produce 
great currents of abnegation and self-sacrifice and spur the masses 
to acts and efforts which, to one considering man's ordinary 
nature only, seem almost superhuman. Catholic jubilees and 
Protestant revivals furnish more than one example, and one 
might mention as characteristic the great wave of charity and 
brotherly love that swept over Umbria in the day of St. Francis 
of Assisi and a number of fleeting moments in the French Revolu- 
tion and during the disturbances of '48 in Italy. 

We are speaking here of collective, not individual, acts. As 
regards the latter, cases where isolated individuals, or groups of 
individuals, give proof of extraordinary abnegation and complete 
self-sacrifice are not so very rare in any age, or in any civilized 
nation. They come to the fore in every war and in every serious 
epidemic on any occasion, in short, when it is desirable and 
necessary that someone suffer or face a danger in the interest of 
all. On such occasions, just as a sublimation of virtue is to be 
seen in some individuals, so an exaggerated cowardice and self- 
ishness appears in others, who cast aside the mask they have been 
accustomed to wear the moment they are faced by a real danger 
and a real need of self-sacrifice. It is equally true, of course, 
that just as the masses have occasional spasms of exalted abne- 
gation and self-sacrifice, so they have feverish paroxysms of the 
base emotions greed, lust for blood, panic. 


But the capacity that certain sentiments have for exciting 
ephemeral periods of intoxication should not mislead one as to 
their actual efficacy in the ordinary daily lives of human beings. 
In moments of patriotic and religious exhilaration whole cities 
have been known to despoil themselves of their property in order 
to donate it to state or church. But no political organization 
can long subsist unless taxation has its compulsory aspect, and 
the Catholic Church itself, whenever it has been able, has made 
the tithes obligatory. 

The patriotic, and still more the religious sentiment, and most 
of all the two combined in a single passion, suffice to produce gen- 
eral and violent insurrections, and at times they have prompted 
whole populations to take up arms and set out upon distant and 
very perilous expeditions this was the case in the first two or 
three Crusades. But save in peoples who look upon war as an 
ordinary occupation and a normal source of gain, those two 
sentiments do not provide an adequate basis for sound and 
dependable armies that will be ready at a moment's notice 
wherever they are needed. Among people who normally depend 
upon agriculture, industry and commerce, armies of that sort 
are products of a sound social discipline, which inexorably forces 
the individual to do his duty and lend his services at certain 
times and in specified ways. 

5. (The political organization proper, the organization that 
establishes the character of the relations between the governing 
class and the governed and between the various levels and various 
sections of the ruling class, is the factor that contributes more 
than any other to determining the degree of perfection that 
juridical defense, or government by law, can attain in a given 
people. The existence of an honest government, a government 
that is based on integrity and justice, a government that is truly 
liberal in Guicciardini's sense of the term, is the best guarantee 
that one can have that the rights commonly known as private 
will be effectively upheld in other words, that property will be 
protectedA Guicciardini defines political liberty as " a prevalence 
of law ana public decrees over the appetites of particular men." 1 
If we take "particular men" in the sense of "individuals," 
meaning "single individuals," including individuals who have 

1 Opere inedite, vol. II, p. 160. 


power in their hands, it would be difficult to find a more rigor- 
ously scientific definition. It has, too, the virtue of being very 
ancient, since, unwittingly perhaps, Guicciardini was repeating 
the substance of an apothegm of one of the famous Seven Wise 
Men of Greece. Guicciardini was certainly not an ingenuous 
soul. In his Pensieri and Discorsi he often reverts to the opinion 
that "men in general love the good and the just whenever love 
of their own interest and the interests of relatives, or fear of the 
vengeance of others, does not mislead their understanding." 
These words contain a recognition of the psychological law that 
we have put forward as the basis of juridical defense. 

A corrupt government, in which the person who commands 
"makes his will licit in his law" whether in the name of God 
or in the name of the people does not matter will obviously be 
inadequate to fulfilling its mission in regard to juridical defense. 
Officially it may proclaim acceptable and even lofty principles 
in regard to legal process. In practice the principles will not be 
very strictly observed. In the old kingdom of Naples and to an 
extent in czarist Russia, law enforcement by the courts, and the 
law itself, could be nullified by a police official. Even equality 
before the law, though officially proclaimed, was more or less a 
farce. To choose an ancient example, as less stirring to modern 
emotions, the Theodosian Code lays down 1 that the larger 
property owners (potentiores possessores) should pay their taxes 
through provincial governors, because, it seems, the municipal 
magistrates, who were generally entrusted with the collection of 
taxes, were too weak as compared with the landowners and too 
deferential towards them. Under Arcadius, farmers who were 
freemen had a right, in the abstract, to hale a proprietor before 
the imperial courts, but such a procedure was styled an "imperti- 
nence" (audaciani). 2 

[The extent to which relations between rulers and ruled, and 
between the various cliques among rulers, are inspired by princi- 
ples of morality and justice, varies, of course, more or less 
appreciably according to the country and the period in history. 
Readily apparent is the difference in this respect between the 
government, say, of the Chinese mandarins and the government 

1 XI, 7, 1*. 

s Fustel de Coulanges, Reckerches sur quelques probldmes d'htstoire, pp. 100, 120. 


of the Turkish pashas and viziers of the good old days men of 
the stamp of Mohammed Kuprilu, Mustapha Bairakdar, or Ali 
Tebelen, who disposed offhand of questions touching the property, 
persons, and lives of the raias, and sometimes of believers. 
Whatever their good intentions, the Chinese mandarins were 
obliged to follow the lead of bureaucratic corruption in order to 
supplement their meager stipends somewhat, and they had to 
refer capital sentences to Peking for review and on occasion 
reversal, unless a province were subject to emergency laws. 
Under Ivan the Terrible, when mass confiscations of property, 
mass exterminations of whole city populations, were ordinary 
occurrences in Russia, that country was ruled very differently 
from the way it was under the last czars; and the czarist Russia 
of the nineteenth century was, in turn, governed very differently 
from England, where every arrest of an individual has to be 
legalized in earnest and very promptly^ The great nations of 
central and western Europe have been ruled very differently 
from the republics of South America. In Latin America it is 
still customary for the leaders of the winning party to shoot the 
leaders of the beaten party, and, not so very long ago, it was 
easier to compute the thefts committed by those who held power 
for any length of time in hundreds of millions than in millions. 1 
Some writers have no difficulty in explaining these variations 
in the degree of excellence of political systems on the basis of 
racial differences. 2 But racial defects can hardly be appealed to 
in such cases. Peoples who seem backward today may at one 
period or another in their history have managed to create very 
advanced types of civilization, and have had political organiza- 
tions in which respect for law, or juridical defense, was relatively 
excellent as compared with the situation prevailing at those times 
in nations which today surpass them in that regard. Even 
today such peoples do not show in private relations the organic 
inferiority in the moral sense that seems to be manifest in their 
public affairs. The Spaniards and the Sicilians are commonly 
regarded as peoples of low-grade political morality. No one 
would claim that they are morally inferior to other Europeans in 
their family relations, or in their personal dealings and friendships. 

1 For the case of Juarea-Celman, a president of the Argentine Republic, and 
his accomplices, see Ebelot, *'La Revolution de Buenos Ayres." 
1 We have amply discussed that view earlier in these pages, chap. I, 10-16. 


Others explain the variations in question by differences in 
level of civilization, and in that they are in a measure right. 
As we shall see hereafter, it is very difficult, if not impossible, 
for populous wide-spreading social units, such as the modern 
nations, to perfect juridical defense to any high degree unless 
they have attained fairly high levels of intellectual and economic 
development. But to be partially right is not to be wholly 
right. Many peoples have had periods of material and intel- 
lectual splendor and yet, as it were by a sort of fatal curse, have 
never been able to rid themselves of certain types of political 
organization that seem to be utterly unsuited to ensuring any 
real progress in the morality of their governing classes. The 
Arabian caliphates of Bagdad, C6rdoba and Cairo were leaders 
in world civilization for some centuries. They never achieved 
any appreciable progress in political organization. What is 
commonly called civilization, therefore, is evidently a necessary 
prerequisite to political progress but yet not enough to provoke 
or explain it. 

It may, indeed, be maintained that habits figure to a very 
large extent in determining the maximum degree of perfection or 
imperfection in juridical defense that a people is capable of per- 
manently enjoying or systematically tolerating. It may be 
taken for granted that the modern Persians could not possibly 
adapt themselves in one generation, or even in many, to the 
system that is today in force in England; nor could the English- 
men of our day ever be brought to accept the sort of government 
that is provided for the subjects of the shah. We have already 
noted that moral habits change far more slowly than intellectual 
habits; yet however slowly they change, they do change, and both 
for the better and for the worse. Englishmen would not tolerate 
today a king like Richard III, a lord chancellor like Francis 
Bacon, a judge like Jeffreys, an army general like that John 
Graham of Claverhouse who commanded in Scotland, or, we may 
venture, a lord protector like Cromwell. So we might reasonably 
hope that a Barnabo Visconti or a Cesare Borgia would be 
impossible among the Italians of today. Polybius admired the 
political system of the Romans as the best of all the governments 
of his day. But within a few generations those same Romans had 
learned to accept the tyrannies of Tiberius, Caligula and Nero; 
while the descendants of the Greeks. who had lived in the days of 


Aristides, Pericles and Epaminondas submitted over long cen- 
turies to the rule of the degenerate emperors of Byzantium, 
Now there must be reasons why certain habits are formed in 
preference to other habits. Even granting, therefore, that 
variety in political systems is due in the main to differences in 
political habits, the problem of why different habits arise still 
remains unsolved. In a word, we are here confronted with a 
great psychological law which can alone explain why the moral 
instincts of a people are now more, now less, embodied and 
developed in its political constitution. And that law is only one 
of many manifestations of another more general law, which we 
set forth earlier in this chapter, and which explains the greater 
or lesser efficacy of moral restraints in all phases of social life. 

6. The absolute preponderance of a single political force, the 
predominance of any over-simplified concept in the organization 
of the state, the strictly logical application of any single principle 
in all public law are the essential elements in any type of despot- 
ism, whether it be a despotism based upon divine right or a 
despotism based ostensibly on popular sovereignty; for they 
enable anyone who is in power to exploit the advantages of a 
superior position more thoroughly for the benefit of his own 
interests and passions. When the leaders of the governing class 
are the exclusive interpreters of the will of God or of the will of 
the people and exercise sovereignty in the name of those abstrac- 
tions in societies that are deeply imbued with religious beliefs 
or with democratic fanaticism, and when no other organized social 
forces exist apart from those which represent the principle on 
which sovereignty over the nation is based, then there can be no 
resistance, no effective control, to restrain a natural tendency in 
those who stand at the head of the social order to abuse their 

(When a governing class can permit itself anything in the name 
of a sovereign who can do anything, it undergoes a real moral 
degeneration, the degeneration that is common to all men whose 
acts are exempt from the restraint that the opinion and the con- 
science of their fellows ordinarily impose. When responsibility 
in subordinates in the end is one with irresponsibility and omni- 
potence in the man or in the little group of men standing at the 
head of the official hierarchy as a whole call that man czar or 


sultan, or that group a Committee of Public Safety the vices 
that absolutism generates in its leaders are communicated down- 
ward to the whole political structure. Anything may be ventured 
when one is interpreting the will, real or imaginary, of a person 
who thinks he has the right to bend everything to his will, but 
who cannot possibly see everything and who does not have free 
and disinterested consciences about him to control his passions 
and correct his mistakes. 

The effects of such a system are in the highest degree deplor- 
able, and they are swift in manifesting themselves. The Russian 
novelist Dostoevski lived long in a land of autocracy and spent 
ten years in exile in Siberia. He has described with greater 
veracity and feeling than anybody else among the moderns the 
degeneration of character that absolute power produces in men. 
We cannot forego a quotation: 

When a man has unlimited power over the flesh and blood of his 
fellow man, when a man is in a position to degrade another human being 
to the limits of degradation, he is unable to resist the temptation to do 
wrong. Tyranny is a habit. In the end it becomes a disease. The 
best man in the world becomes so brutalized as to be indistinguishable 
from a wild beast. Blood intoxicates, the spirit becomes accessible to 
the greatest abnormalities, and these can come to seem real joys. The 
possibility of such license sometimes becomes contagious in a whole 
people; and yet society, which despises the official hangman, does not 
despise the hangman who is all-powerf ulj 

Now this type of moral intoxication has been pointed to by 
not a few psychiatrists of our day. It explains the excesses of 
those who are omnipotent. It supplies the key to the criminal 
follies of some of the old Roman emperors, of Ivan IV and Peter 
the Great, of many sultans of the East, of Robespierre, Barere, 
Carrier, Lebon. As is well known, some of those individuals 
had shown quite normal characters before achieving supreme 
power; they were utterly alien to the excesses in which they 
afterwards indulged. The failing is particularly characteristic of 
individuals who are not destined to supreme power by family or 
birth. Napoleon remarked to Dr. O'Meara at St. Helena that 
"no one but himself had ever done him any harm, that he had 
been his own worst enemy, and that schemes that were altogether 
his own the expedition to Moscow and all that followed from 


it had been the sole causes of his downfall." 1 So, then, not 
Napoleon's genius, not even the lucid sense he had of his own 
best interests, was able, because of his despotic power, to keep 
him from making mistakes in which his own fortunes foundered 
and through which hundreds of thousands of human lives were 

I It may be objected that some absolute sovereigns have been 
good, just as others have been bad, and that in continental 
Europe, before the modern adoption of constitutional and par- 
liamentary forms of government, absolutism did not produce 
results that were disastrous enough to justify the view that we 
have here put forward. The ready answer is that after the 
Middle Ages the absolutisms that prevailed in Europe were far 
from being complete, that even the authority of a Louis XlVJhad 
powerful checks in the traditions of a day when a king was just 
the first among his barons, in the long-standing privileges of the 
nobility and the provinces and especially in the more or less 
complete separation of church and state. In any event, human 
nature is so rich and so varied that we may readily admit a thing 
which, for that matter, history proves: namely, that there have 
been individuals who have managed wholly to tame their passions 
and to remain pure and honest even after long investiture with 
absolute authority. But the good that such "lucky accidents" 
have actually accomplished is not as great as is commonly sup- 
posed. I In a country that is permanently accustomed to a 
despotic regime, the ruling class, taken as a class, usually becomes 
fawning and craven before superiors, and inevitably becomes 
haughty, despotic and overbearing toward inferiors. Men, 
unhappily, are so made that the more subject they are to the 
caprice and the will of the persons above them, the more likely 
they are to force their caprice and will upon those who are below 
them and in their power; 

Anyone can find examples in the private and even the family 
life he sees about him to corroborate the rule which we have here 
formulated. In the modern state, which is spread over a vast 
territory and has extremely complicated bureaucratic and 
administrative systems, the head of the state has a very slight 
influence upon the ordinary life of the people, apart from a 
number of important decisions, such as choice between war and 

1 0'Meara, Napoleon in Exile, conversation of April 6, 1817. 


peace. Often, therefore, abuses will exist to which the sover- 
eigns are personally most averse. Alexander I, Nicholas I and 
Alexander II of Russia were certainly very much opposed to 
administrative corruption, and so was Ferdinand II of Naples. 
Yet the practice of bribing officials persisted to the end in czarist 
Jlussia, and was never eradicated in the kingdom of Naples. 1 
History shows a number of cases where the establishment of 
despotic government has been advantageous to peoples, at least 
temporarily. Cesare Borgia is said to have given Romagna a 
chance to catch a free breath by destroying the bandits and petty 
tyrants that infested that region. So Mehemet Ali gave Egypt 
a little peace by exterminating the Mamelukes. All that such 
examples show is that despotism, though the worst of all political 
systems, is nevertheless preferable to anarchy, the absence of any 
government at all] 

7. Aristotle, Polybius and a number of other writers of ancient 
times expressed a preference for "mixed" forms of government 
forms, that is, which combined traits of monarchy, aristocracy 
and democracy in certain proportions so clearly intuiting the 
law that we have just stated. In the Greek state, the ancient 
monarchy, resting on its sacred character and on tradition, the 
aristocracy, which also represented tradition and, as a rule, 
ownership of land, the demos, based on money, mobile wealth, 
numbers, mob passions, were so many political forces, the inter- 
play of which, so long as any one of them did not prevail to the 
exclusion of the others, was such as to provide a type of political 
organization in which due process of law was, in ordinary times, 
relatively secure. In Rome again, in the day when Polybius was 
so greatly admiring her constitution, we find the influence of great 
landed property in the hands of the patricians and the influence of 
small landed property in the hands of the plebeians tempered and 
balanced by the influence of money and mobile capital in the 
hands of the knights. We find the traditions of the great families 
of optimates descended from the gods holding their power in the 
face of popular passions and the talents and newly gotten wealth 
of the great plebeian families. And we find those different 
political forces so embodied in the various authorities, political, 

1 Leroy-Beaulieu, L* Empire des tzars et hs Busses; Nisco, Ferdinando II 
e U suo regno. 


military, administrative and judiciary, and so allying with each 
other and balancing each other as to give rise to a state that was 
in juridical terms the most perfect of all antiquity. 

In the eighteenth century, Montesquieu studied the English 
constitution and derived from it the doctrine that if a country 
was to be free, power should curb power, the exercise of the three 
fundamental powers that he found present in any state being 
entrusted to separate political organs. Now writers on constitu- 
tional law have shown that there can be no such thing as the 
absolute separation of the three powers that Montesquieu con- 
ceived and that there is no reason why the powers in question 
should be three rather than any other number. But that, 
probably, is not Montesquieu's main defect, which, for that 
matter, comes out more prominently in the many writers who 
have drawn on Montesquieu than in Montesquieu himself. 
With their eyes fixed upon the master's theory, such imitators 
have been inclined to stress its formal or, so to say, legalistic 
aspect rather than its substantial or social aspect. They have 
often forgotten that if one political institution is to be an effective 
curb upon the activity of another it must represent a political 
f orce ft must, that is, be the organized expression of a social 
influence and a social authority that has some standing in the 
community, as against the forces that are expressed in the politi- 
cal institution that is to be controlled. 

That is why, in certain parliamentary monarchies, in spite of 
the letter of constitutions and fundamental charters, we see heads 
of states, who are supported neither by ancient traditions nor by 
the all but vanishing prestige of the divine-right doctrine nor by 
the influence of the bureaucracy, the army or the economically 
superior classes, becoming powerless to counterbalance the influ- 
ence of elective assemblies, who are supported by a belief that 
they represent the totality of the citizens and actually comprise 
within themselves a considerable body of capacities, interests, 
ambitions and energies. That is why in those same countries the 
courts are proclaimed by word of mouth to be fundamental organs 
of the state, while in fact they are mere branches of a bureaucracy, 
depending upon a cabinet that is loyal to the majority in the 
elective chamber. So they come to lack prestige and independ- 
ence and are never capable of mustering enough moral and intel- 
lectual energy to assert their own importance. For the same 


reason, finally, a number of senates and upper houses have easily 
been relegated to subordinate positions by lower houses that are 
functioning at their sides. That is because they are made up of 
pensioned officials, deputies and assemblymen, who have retired 
from militant political life, along with a few rich men whose 
vanities the ministries have found it expedient to flatter. Such 
bodies, therefore, do not offer adequate fields either for aggressive 
minds or for ambitious talents. They do not represent important 
social forces. 

8t If a political organism is to progress in the direction of 
attaining greater and greater improvement in juridical defense, 
|the prime and most essential requisite is that the secular and 
ecclesiastical powers shall be separated, or, better, that the 
principle on which the exercise of temporal authority is based 
shall have nothing sacred and immutable about it. When power 
rests on a system of ideas and beliefs outside of which it is felt 
that there can be neither truth nor justice, it is almost impossible 
that its acts should be debated and moderated in practice. Social 
progress can hardly reach a point where, in such a case, the differ- 
ent powers will harmonize with each other and check each other 
effectively enough to prevent absolute control by the individual, 
or individuals, who stand at the head of the social orderi) The 
relative immobility of certain social types must be ascribed to 
failures in the respects here suggested. The sacred character of 
the caste has for many centuries prevented any social progress in 
Hindu civilization. In its beginnings that civilization must have 
had very brilliant possibilities. Otherwise there would be no 
way to account for the great material and artistic progress which 
it actually did achieve. That leads to a supposition, which seems, 
for that matter, to be confirmed by recent studies, that the divi- 
sion of the Hindu population into castes, and the isolation of the 
various castes, cannot always have been as thoroughgoing and 
extreme as we find them today. It seems that Brahminism did 
not become altogether rigid, stationary and formalistic until 
after its victorious struggle with Buddhism in India. 1 

"La L6gende de Chrisna" and "Le Bouddha et sa legende"; but 
especially, Senart, " Un roi de I'lnde aii troisieme siecle avant notre ere: Acoka et 
le Bouddhisme." 


Mohammedan societies are afflicted with the same weakness. 
The fact has been remarked by many people, but it has been 
stressed with the greatest penetration by Leroy-Beaulieu. The 
Mohammedan Tatars who dwelt in the Russian governments of 
Kazan, Astrakhan and the Crimea, that writer describes as 
prosperous, clean-living and given to trade; but he adds: 

The great vice of Islam, the real cause of its political inferiority, lies 
neither in its dogma nor even in its morality, but in its habit of con- 
fusing the spiritual with the temporal, the religious law with the secular 
law. The Koran is Bible and Code in one it is the word of the Prophet 
that takes the place of law. Ordinances and customs are therefore 
consecrated to eternity by religion, and because of that fact alone every 
Mussulman civilization is necessarily stationary. 1 

To supplement that analysis, which is both keen and exact, 
one might add that in countries where Mohammedan populations 
are independent the sovereign is almost always a caliph, or vicar 
of the Prophet, or at least derives his authority nominally or 
actually from a caliph. In view of that, no believer can deny him 
absolute obedience without impugning the legitimacy of the 
caliphate's authority and initiating a religious reform. That is 
why, as we saw above (chap. Ill, 5), civil wars and revolutions 
among Mohammedans have as a rule taken some religious reform 
as their pretext, or some claim to the vicarate of the Prophet. 
That was the case in the conflicts between the Ommiads, the 
Abbassids and the Fatimids, which drenched the early history 
of Islam in blood. That was the case in the struggles that upset 
northern Africa and Spain in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, 
and in very recent movements that have disturbed those coun- 
tries. Of course, in all such struggles, considerations of an 
altogether worldly character figured, along with the religious 

Christian peoples have managed to avoid the dangerous con- 
fusion that Leroy-Beaulieu refers to, and so, as the result of a 
number of favoring circumstances, they have been able to create 
the secular state. In the first place, the Bible luckily contains 
very few maxims that can be directly applied to political life. 
In the second place, though the Catholic Church has always 
aspired to a preponderant share in political power, it has never 

1 L $ Empire dea tmrs et lea Rwaes, vol. I, p. 80, 


been able to monopolize it entirely, because of two traits, chiefly, 
that are basic in its structure. Celibacy has generally been 
required of the clergy and of monks. Therefore no real dynasties 
of abbots and bishops have ever been able to establish themselves. 
On this score the western world owes Gregory VII a great debt 
of gratitude. Secondly, in spite of numerous examples to the 
contrary supplied by the warlike Middle Ages, the ecclesiastical 
calling has by its very nature never been strictly compatible 
with the bearing of arms. The precept that exhorts the Church 
to abhor bloodshed has never dropped completely out of sight, 
and in relatively tranquil and orderly times it has always been 
very much to the fore. In the period between the eleventh and 
the fourteenth century even Guelph writers had to recognize that 
side by side with papal supremacy an emperor existed as a 
secular sovereign who functioned as the instrument and secular 
arm of the Church. The most complete despotisms to which 
Christian peoples have ever been subject arose in Byzantium and 
in Russia, where the secular rulers succeeded most completely in 
bringing ecclesiastical authority under their direct control. The 
English, on the other hand, are greatly indebted for their liberties 
to the Puritans and to other nonconformists. 

9. ^ext after the separation of secular and ecclesiastical 
authority, the most essential requisites for a more or less advanced 
type of juridical defense are to be found in the way in which 
wealth is distributed in a societjj) and m_ the way in which 
military forces are organized. Here again a distinction must be 
drawnTtefween nations that are still in their feudal period and 
nations that have already developed a bureaucratic organization, 

In the feudal state, wealth and military power are ordinarily 
concentrated in the hands of the ruling class wealth consisting 
largely in the ownership of land, as is uniformly the case in rudi- 
mentary stages of civilization. Even in a feudal society this 
state of affairs presents many drawbacks, but in that type of 
society it never has the effects it has in more highly perfected 
types of social organization. The head of a feudal state will be 
able to wrong any one of his barons, but he will never be absolute 
master of them all. They have at their disposal a certain amount 
of public force, if one may so speak, and will always be able to 
exercise de facto a right of resistance which, in bureaucratic states. 


once it is recognized, is written into the constitutions and the code 
books of public law. The individual barons, in their turn, find 
that there is a limit to the tyranny which they can exercise over 
the masses of their subjects. Unreasonableness on their part may 
provoke a desperate unrest which may easily become rebellion. 
So it turns out that in all truly feudal countries the rule of the 
masters may be violent and arbitrary by fits and starts, but on the 
whole it is considerably limited by customs. The Abyssinians, 
for instance, and especially the Afghans, owe only a highly quali- 
fied obedience to their rases and their emirs. We have already 
seen (6, above) that traditions and other remnants of a feudal 
system may serve to limit the authority of the head of a state. 
Not even in the age of Louis XIV, or of Frederick the Great, 
could European monarchy be compared to the political systems 
that were headed by the emperors of Byzantium or the shahs of 

A more or less complete separation of the temporal and spiritual 
powers in France and Prussia must have contributed to that 
result. With the exception of Russia and Turkey, there has 
never been a country in modern Europe in which the head of the 
government exercised greater personal authority than did 
Frederick the Great in Prussia, and his father before him. The 
peculiar personalities of those sovereigns, the small size of the 
state they administered, the special circumstances that prevailed 
in their day in history, combined to make their administrations 
the real foundation of Prussian greatness. 
{ But when the class that monopolizes wealth and arms embodies 
its power in a centralized bureaucracy and anirresistible standing 
army, we get despotism in its worst form namely, a barbarous 
and primitive system of government that has the instruments of 
an advanced civilization at its disposal, a yoke of iron which is 
applied by rough and reckless hands and which is very hard to 
break, since it has been steeled and tempered by practiced 

That an omnipotent standing army makes one of the worst 
forms of government is a fact so well recognized that we shall not 
dwell upon it here. 1 \Also well known is the fact that too great 
a concentration of wealth in the hands of a portion of the ruling 

1 See below, chap. IX. There we consider the circumstances that make an 
omnipotent army possible and those that serve to limit or destroy its power. 


class has brought on the ruin of relatively perfect political 
organisms, such as the Roman Republic. Laws and institutions 
that guarantee justice and protect the rights of the weak cannot 
possibly be effective when wealth is so distributed that we^get, 
on the one hand, a small number of persons possessing lands and 
mobile capital and, on the other, a multitude of proletarians who 
have no resource but the labor of their hands and owe it to the 
rich if they do not die of hunger from one day to the next.] In 
that state of affairs to proclaim universal suffrage, or the riglits of 
man, or the maxim that all are equal before the law, is merely 
ironical;, and just as ironical is it to say that every man carries a 
marshal's baton in his knapsack, or that he is free some day to 
become a capitalist himself. Even granting that some few 
individuals do realize those high possibilities, they will not neces- 
sarily be the best individuals, either in intelligence or in morals. 
They may be the most persistent, the most fortunate or, perhaps, 
the most crooked. Meanwhile the mass of the people will still 
remain just as much subject to those on high. 

fThere is no use either in cherishing illusions as to the practical 
consequences of a system in which political power and control of 
economic production and distribution are irrevocably delegated 
to, or conferred upon, the same persons. In so far as the state 
absorbs and distributes a larger and larger portion of the public 
wealth, the leaders of the ruling class come to possess greater and 
greater facilities for influencing and commanding their sub- 
ordinates, and more and more. easily evade control by anybody) 
One of the most important reasons for the decline of the parlia- 
mentary system is the relatively huge numbers of offices, con- 
tracts for public works and other favors of an economic character 
which the governing class is in a position to distribute either to 
individuals or to groups of persons; and the drawbacks of that 
system are the greater in proportion as the amount of wealth that 
the government or local elective bodies absorb and distribute is 
greater, and the harder it becomes, therefore, to secure an 
independent position and an honest living without relying in 
some respect or other upon public administration. If, then, all 
the instruments of production pass into the hands of the govern- 
ment, the officials who control and apportion production become 
the arbiters of the fortunes and welfare of all, and we get a more 
powerful oligarchy, a more all-embracijng "racket,** than has ever 


been seen in a society of advanced civilization. If all moral and 
material advantages depend on those who hold power, there is no 
baseness that will not be resorted to in order to please them; just 
as there is no act of chicanery or violence that will not be resorted 
to in order to attain power, in other words, in order to belong to 
the number of those who hand out the cake rather than to the 
larger number of those who have to rest content with the slices 
that are doled out to them. 

I A society is best placed to develop a relatively perfect political 
organization when it contains a large class of people whose 
economic position is virtually independent of those who hold 
supreme power and who have sufficient means to be able to devote 
a portion of their time to perfecting their culture and acquiring 
that interest in the public weal that aristocratic spirit, we are 
almost tempted to say which alone can induce people to serve 
their country with no other satisfactions than those that come 
from individual pride and self-respect^ In all countries that ever 
have been, or now are, in the lead as regards juridical defense or 
liberty, as it is commonly called such a class has been prominent. 
There was such a class in Rome, when Rome had a teeming plebs 
of small property owners who, the times being modest ones, 
managed to be self-sufficient and to win step by step, with amaz- 
ing persistence, the rights of full citizenship. There was such a 
class in England in the seventeenth century, and there is one 
there now. England's numerous gentry, which was made up in 
those days chiefly of moderately rich landowners and is now 
chiefly made up of moderately rich businessmen, is now supplying, 
as it then supplied, the best elements to the ruling class. There 
has been and there still is such a class in the United States of 
America, and such a class has existed in most of the countries of 
central and western Europe. Where the class is inadequate to 
its task because of deficiencies in cultivation or in education or in 
wealth, parliamentary government bears its worst fruits, as 
would any other political system. 

10. As civilization grows, the number of the moral and material 
influences which are capable of becoming social forces increases. 
For example, property in money, as the fruit of industry and 
commerce, comes into being alongside of real property. Educa- 
tion progresses. Occupations based on scientific knowledge gain 


in importance. So a new social class forms which, up to a certain 
point, counterbalances the material prestige of the rich and the 
moral prestige of the clergy. Not only that. Mutual toleration 
results from advanced culture, and toleration enables different 
religions and different political currents to exist side by side, 
balancing and checking one another. Specialization of public 
functions enables many different influences to express them- 
selves in government and to participate in the control of the 
state. At the same time public discussion of the acts of the 
rulers becomes possible. FreedoA of the press, so-called, is a 
very recent instrument of juridical defense. It was not estab- 
lished in England till the end of the seventeenth century, and 
not till the nineteenth century did it make its way into the con- 
stitutional and parliamentary countries of continental Europe. 

And yet, in order to gain an influence proportionate to its real 
importance every political force has to be organized, and before 
it can be well organized, a number of factors, important among 
them time and tradition, are indispensable. That is why, in one 
country or another at one time or another, we see an actual 
disproportion between the importance that a class has acquired 
in society and the direct influence it exerts in the government of 
the country. One thinks at once of the French bourgeoisie 
before 1789, or of the English middle classes before 1832. There 
is almost always some one political force, furthermore, that 
manifests an invincible tendency to overreach or absorb the 
others, and so to destroy a juridical equilibrium that has gradually 
been established. That is true both of political forces of a 
material character, such as wealth and military power, and of 
forces of a moral character, such as the great currents of religion 
or thought. Each of such currents claims to monopolize truth 
and justice, and all types of exclusivism and bigotry, whether 
Christian or Mohammedan, whether sacred or rationalistic, 
whether inspired by the infallibility of the pope or by the infalli- 
bility of democracy, are equally pernicious from this point of 
view. Every country, every epoch, has its own peculiar current 
of ideas and beliefs, which being the strongest current, bears 
down upon the political mechanism and tends to subvert it. 
Quite generally the harm that has been done by weakening cur- 
rents, which are going, or have gone, out of fashion, is appreciated 
very well, and the deep wounds that they have inflicted on the 


sense of justice are stigmatized with horror. Meantime the 
similar harm that the current in rising vogue has done, or is 
threatening to do, is not discerned or else is condoned or, at the 
most, feebly viewed with alarm. Men cry aloud and proclaim 
that liberty has been won, that the storm is over. Actually 
the storm has merely changed direction, or, if one may use the 
metaphor, merely changed shape and color. 

(A number of moral forces have long striven to upset the 
juridical equilibrium in Europe^ the Church, social democracy, 
nationalism. In spite of its strong organization the Church 
may be considered the least violent and menacing of them all, 
and it will continue to be so unless danger of proletarian revolu- 
tion forces the upper classes to turn again to religious beliefs 
which they have now abandoned or profess but tepidly. ; Among 
material forces, a force that is able very easily to override all 
the powers of the state and Sometimes to violate, let alone 
the norms of justice and equity, the literal text of the law, 
is mobile wealth it is money, or at least that portion of 
money which is powerfully organized! The great develop- 
ment of banking systems and of credit, the growth of large 
corporations, which often control the communication systems 
of vast territories and entire states, the great enlargement 
of public debts, have in the last hundred years created new 
structures, new elements of political importance, so that some of 
the greatest states in the Old World and the New have already 
had occasion to learn from experience how overbearing and how 
all-pervasive their influence can be. 

( The relative ease with which money, or mobile wealth, can be 
organized and the possibility of concentrating control of large 
amounts of money in the hands of a few individuals help to 
explain its growing preponderance in power. In this phenomenon 
we have one of the many examples of an organized minority pre- 
vailing over a disorganized majority. A very small number of 
individuals can control all the banks of issue in a country or all 
the companies engaged in transportation by land or sea. They 
can own and control great stock companies and industrial corpo- 
rations which deal in commodities that are indispensable to 
national defense, such as iron and steel. They can carry out 
public works for which not even the finances of the richest 
governments would be adequate. With hundreds of millions at 


their disposal, such, individuals possess u the most varied resources 
for threatening or cajoling other interests however far-reaching, 
and for intimidating and corrupting public officials, ministries, 
legislative bodies, newspapers. Meantime, that portion and 
undoubtedly it is the larger portion of the national capital 
which is invested in the hosts and hosts of small or medium-sized 
industries, or scattered about in many hands in the form of 
savings in amounts more or less large, has no power whatever to 
react. Be it noted that the far larger part of the capital of banks 
and industrial corporations usually belongs to small and medium- 
sized stockholders, who not only remain completely passive but 
are often the first victims of their leaders, who succeed in founding 
great fortunes and building up powerful public influence on the 
losses they inflict on other^ 

It is difficult at the present time for real property to find the 
same facilities for asserting itself that money finds. Though 
landed property may not be very much divided, it is always 
divided enough to make it difficult in a large country for a small 
number of large landowners working in coalition to dictate to a 
market, or to force their will upon a government. So true is this 
that industrial protectionism appeared in advance of agrarian 
protectionism. The latter came about as a reaction to the former 
and as a sort of indirect compensation for the consequences of the 
former. A temporary monopoly may be acquired by the pro- 
prietors of lands immediately adjoining large cities that are under- 
going rapid development in real estate. In such cases the same 
forms of corruption as are characteristic of the influence of money 

11. When a system of political organization is based upon a 
single absolute principle, so that the whole political class is 
organized after a single pattern, it is difficult for all social forces 
to participate in public life, and more difficult still for any one 
force to counterbalance another. That is as true when power is 
in the hands of elected officials who are said to be chosen by the 
people as it is when power is entrusted exclusively to employees 
who are assumed to be appointed by a prince. The checks which 
bureaucracy and democracy can enforce upon themselves and 
which are applied through the agency of other bureaucrats or 
elected officials are always inadequate. In practice they never 
wholly achieve their purposes. 


The administrative history of the Roman Empire furnishes a 
pertinent instance of the incapacity of a centralized bureaucracy 
to curb itself effectively. In the beginning, both in the capital 
and in the municipalities, both in the colonies and in the pro- 
vincial cities, there was, under the supremacy of republican or 
imperial Rome, what the English call self-government; that is to 
say, public offices were filled without salaries by a large class of 
well-to-do people. But beginning with the establishment of the 
Empire, functions in the city of Rome which until then had been 
delegated to aediles and censors were turned over to special 
salaried functionaries, and these were assisted in their work by a 
large personnel of employees, who also received compensation. 
Superintendence of the provisioning of the city was entrusted to 
a praefectus annonae, public works to curatores viarum, aquarum, 
operum publicorum, riparum et alvei Tiberis, surveillance over 
lighting and fires to a praefectus vigilum and police functions to 
a praefectus urbis. The system that had been introduced in the 
capital very soon spread to the municipalities, which one by one 
lost their administrative autonomy. Down to A,D. 80 electoral 
campaigning for the posts of duumvir and aedile was still very 
keen in some municipalities. Not a few Pompeian frescoes show 
candidates being recommended and eulogized. But as early as 
the end of the first century of the empire, a considerable diminu- 
tion takes place in the authority of the duumviri juris dicundo 
and the aediles, to whom local administration of the individual 
cities had been entrusted, these officials being gradually replaced 
by employees of the empire juridiri, correctores, curatores rerum 
publicarum. Slow as the evolution may have been, by the time 
of Nerva and Trajan elected functionaries were periodically 
suspended from their posts and their duties were entrusted for 
specified periods to curatores something like the Italian " royal 
commissioners" (regi commissari) of the present day. At the 
same time there was a slow growth in the inspectorial authority 
and directive jurisdiction of the corrector provinciae in this case 
something equivalent to the modern French or Italian prefect. 
Finally, at the end of the second century, municipal autonomy 
was extinct almost everywhere, and a gigantic all-embracing 
bureaucratic network extended over the whole empire. 1 , 

1 Marquardt, Manuel des antiquiUs romaines, vol. I, pp. 115, 158, 214, 225, 
and vol. II, pp. 187 I. 


At the same time the well-to-do municipal bourgeoisie declined. 
That class made up the ordo decurionwn and participated in the 
government of the cities. The men who held the posts of 
duumvir and aedile were selected from it. The office of the 
curialis involved a heavy financial responsibility, since the class 
of curiales as a whole gave bond for the payment of the whole 
tax laid upon a given city. This burden contributed beyond a 
doubt to the economic ruin of the Roman middle class. Now 
when fiscalism and bureaucratic centralization had created the 
Roman society of the Low Empire a society made up of a very 
small class of large property owners and high officials and 
another very populous class of wretchedly poor people, who had 
no social importance whatever and, though freeborn, readily 
sank to the status of tenants we witness the appearance of a 
very original institution, a new bureaucratic organ that was 
designed to safeguard the interests of the needy classes, and of 
such remnants of the small landowners as survived, and protect 
them from abuse by the bureaucracy. The office of defensor 
civitatis was created by Valentinian I in the year 364. This 
"public defender" was just an employee appointed expressly to 
shelter the urban plebs from the tyranny of high officials, or of the 
rich who made common cause with the high officials. His par- 
ticular function was to see to it that the complaints of the poor 
were admitted to trial in accordance with the law and that their 
appeals reached the foot of the throne. But, in spite of the best 
of intentions on the part of the legislator, this effort of bureau- 
cratic absolutism to correct and control itself can have had no 
very appreciable effects. The old abuses continued, and the 
forces that were leading the empire to its destruction continued 
to operate with the same potency. 

The method chosen to cure the evils was not the aptest imagi- 
nable. A high official is very likely to have the points of view, 
the passions, the prejudices, of the class to which he belongs, and 
his sentiments, as well as his interests, will incline him to deport 
himself in such a way as to win the approval of his own class 
rather than the approval of another class to which he feels 
morally and intellectually alien and which he may already have 
learned to abuse and despise. 

Bureaucratic absolutism in Russia had its most ancient roots 
in the influence of Byzantium, which made itself felt at Kiev 


from the time of Vladimir the Great and his successors. It was 
certainly reinforced by the terrible Mongol domination, which 
supervened in the thirteenth century and was to weigh upon the 
country down into the sixteenth. In Russia again, the famous 
secret chancellery that was organized by the czar Alexis toward 
the middle of the seventeenth century was nothing more than a 
special police force that tapered directly upward to the sovereign 
and was designed to keep an eye on abuses, but also on attempts 
at revolt, among the high officials and the boyars who constituted, 
when all was said and done, a single class. Now the "Third 
Section," so deplorably famous under the last czars, stemmed in 
a direct and legitimate line from this secret chancellery of Alexis. 
There were periods of calm and periods of recrudescence in the 
activity of the "Third Section." Many times a-bolished in name, 
it was always retained in fact; and* it appears that actually, far 
from eradicating venality and corruption from the Russian 
bureaucracy, it served to intensify the oppression that the 
bureaucracy inflicted on the rest of the country. 

In the United States, on the other hand, one sees the inability 
of a democracy to control and limit itself. It cannot be denied 
that the framers of the Constitution of 1787 took great care to 
embody the principle of checks and balances in that document 
in order to achieve a perfect equilibrium between the various 
powers and the various political organs. Given the thoroughly 
democratic basis of the government, the absolute lack of any 
power that does not emanate directly from popular suffrage, it 
is hard to believe that anything better could have been imagined. 
The Senate, to begin with, has greater and more real powers than 
the upper houses in Europe usually have. It actually partici- 
pates in the exercise of executive power, and, expressing a still 
lively sense of the independence of the separate states, it enjoys 
great public prestige. But then again the president has a veto 
power, and he uses it freely. He cannot be compelled to resign 
by a vote of the lower house. He concentrates all governmental 
responsibility in his own person for a period of four years. As an 
organ of juridical defense the American presidency is far superior 
to the cabinets in the parliamentary countries of Europe, since 
European cabinets have less authority than the American president 
and more need of kowtowing to assemblymen and politicians than 
he. Since they are collective bodies, their members never feel 


the pressure of personal responsibility which the American presi- 
dent feels. To this breadth of powers, and to the feeling of 
personal responsibility that often develops with tenure in high 
office, is due the fact that during the last century a number of 
presidents, for example Johnson, Hayes and Cleveland, have 
stood out with stubbornness and courage against the worst 
excesses of the parties that elected them. 

Johnson (1865-1869) came to the presidency on the death of 
Lincoln. He steadfastly opposed handing over the defeated 
South to pillaging by the petty Republican politicians who came 
to be known as "carpetbaggers." Hayes was also a Republican. 
Though he had come into power through a questionable juggling 
of votes, which was upheld by a decision of the Supreme Court, 
he at once put an end to the reign of plunder and terror that had 
continued for eight years in the Democratic states of the South 
during the double term of the greatly overestimated Grant. 
Cleveland, a Democratic president elected in 1884, among other 
highly meritorious acts, had the courage to retain in office a 
number of Republican officials whom his partisans wished^to have 
dismissed a high-minded effort to abolish the Jacksonian system 
whereby the party that was victorious at the polls took over all 
remunerative posts. As governor of New York State, Cleveland 
had become famous through a successful fight with the Tweed 
Ring that was "bossing" the aldermanic chamber of New York 

But, this, so to say, formal perfection of mechanism in federal 
and state governments has only to an extent made up for a defect 
which is fundamental in the whole political and administrative 
system of the American Union, and that defect has been greatly 
aggravated by a tendency which began to manifest itself between 
1820 and 1850 and has now become virtually countrywide. We 
refer to the fact that suffrage has been made equal and universal 
in almost all the American states. 

In the early days of the Union the right to vote was generally 
subject to a man's status as a taxpayer. Indeed in early days, 
in the New England states, a Puritan system prevailed whereby 
the right to vote was conferred on members of religious congre- 
gations. Then the property qualification was introduced in those 
states as well. High property qualifications were also required 
for eligibility for election to local state legislatures and to the 


governorship. Equal suffrage began to be introduced in the 
early nineteenth century in the western states, where everybody 
was a recent immigrant and a landowner. Then it was adopted 
for all whites in the southern states, and finally it was extended 
to the state of New York and to New England. This evolution 
was completed around 1850, under the influence of new immi- 
grants and French democratic ideas. Negroes, as is well known, 
did not receive the vote until 1865. Simultaneously with the 
broadening of suffrage came the growth in vogue of the principles 
of direct election and limited tenure for judges. Again the old 
states of New England held out longest against this current, 
but they too were carried away by it in the end. 1 

As a result of this movement, a single class of electors now 
casts its votes in all elections. Judges in the various states were 
once appointed for life, and the appointments were made by the 
respective governors. The office of judge has now become 
directly elective and temporary. In this way the same electoral 
clique invariably chooses federal and local authorities. Gover- 
nors, judges and congressmen are in the last analysis instruments 
of the same influences, which become the absolute and irre- 
sponsible masters of a whole country all the more since the 
American politicians make a business of elections and are highly 
skilled in the art of manufacturing "machines" and "rings." 
Under this system, in other words, all the powers that should 
balance and supplement each other emanate from a single caucus 
or electoral committee. 

But, it might be objected, under a system of universal suffrage 
all political forces and influences can be represented in the 
governing class in proportion to their numerical importance, and 
it therefore becomes impossible for a minority to monopolize 
power in the state to its own advantage and so to make the state 
an instrument of its own views and passions. 

This objection reflects a theory that is still much in vogue but 
which we have not been accepting and in fact have been indirectly 
combatting all along in these pages. We had better stop, there- 
fore, and deal with it directly, 

1 Seaman, The American System of Oovernment, pp. 160-164; Jannet, Le 
istituzioni politick e sociali degli Stati Uniti d' America, part I, chaps. II and 
VII. Tocqueville's worth as an observer has probably been somewhat exagger- 
ated. He saw only the beginnings of this democratic movement and had no 
means of scrutinizing a fully triumphant democracy in the United States. 


1. Many doctrines that advocate liberty and equality, as the 
latter terms are still commonly understood doctrines which the 
eighteenth century thought out, which the nineteenth perfected 
and tried to apply and which the twentieth will probably dispense 
with or modify substantially are summed up and given concrete 
form in the theory that views universal suffrage as the foundation 
of all sound government. It is commonly believed that the only 
free, equitable and legitimate government is a government that 
is based upon the will of the majority, the majority by its vote 
delegating its powers for a specified length of time to men who 
represent it. Down to a few generations ago and even today 
in the eyes of many writers and statesmen all flaws in repre- 
sentative government were attributed to incomplete or mistaken 
applications of the principles of representation and suffrage. 
Louis Blanc, Lamartine and indeed all the democratic writers in 
France before 1848 ascribed the alleged corruption of the July 
Monarchy and all the drawbacks of the French parliamentary 
system to interference by the monarch with the elective bodies 
and, especially, to limited suffrage. Similar beliefs were widely 
current in Italy down to thirty years ago. For instance, they 
formed, as they still form, the groundwork of the Mazzinian 
school. f 

A following so large, beliefs so widespread, are not to be dis- 
credited in a page or two. We shall not, therefore, attempt a 
systematic refutation of the theories on which universal suffrage 
is based. 1 We shall simply refer to some of the main considera- 
tions that most seriously undermine the foundations on which 
universal suffrage as an intellectual edifice rests. We deem it 
sufficient for our purposes here to demonstrate that the assump- 

1 Independently of the allusions we have already made to this matter in this 
work, we have discussed the suffrage problem in other writings, notably in 
Teorica dei governi e governo parlamentare and Le costituzioni moderne. 



tion that the elected official is the mouthpiece of the majority 
of his electors is as a rule not consistent with the facts; and we 
believe that this can be proved by facts of ordinary experience 
and by certain practical observations that anyone can make on 
the manner in which elections are conducted. 

What happens in other forms of government namely, that an 
organized minority imposes its will on the disorganized majority 
happens also and to perfection, whatever the appearances to 
the contrary, under the representative system. When we say 
that the voters "choose" their representative, we are using a 
language that is very inexact. The truth is that the representa- 
tive has himself elected by the voters, and, if that phrase should 
seem too inflexible and too harsh to fit some cases, we might 
qualify it by saying that his friends have him elected. In elections, 
as in all other manifestations of social life, those who have the will 
and, especially, the moral, intellectual and material means to 
force their will upon others take the lead over the others and 
command them. 

The political mandate has been likened to the power of attorney 
that is familiar in private law. But in private relationships, 
delegations of powers and capacities always presuppose that the 
principal has the broadest freedom in choosing his representative. 
NOTV in practice, in popular elections, that freedom of choice, 
thougH complete theoretically, necessarily becomes null, not 
to say ludicrous. If each voter gave his vote to the candidate of 
his heart, we may be sure that in almost all cases the only result 
would be a wide scattering of votes. When very many wills are 
involved, choice is determined by the most various criteria, almost 
all of them subjective, and if such wills were not coordinated and 
organized it would be virtually impossible for them to coincide in 
the spontaneous choice of one individual. If his vote is to have 
any efficacy at all, therefore, each voter is forced to limit his 
choice to a very narrow field, in other words to a choice among 
the two or three persons who have some chance of succeeding; and 
the only ones who have any chance of succeeding are those whose 
candidacies are championed by groups, by committees, by 
organized minorities. In order to simplify the situation for pur- 
poses of proof, we have assumed a uninominal ballot, where one 
name only is to be voted for. But the great majority of voters 
will necessarily have a very limited freedom in the choice of their 


representative, and the influence of committees will necessarily 
be preponderant, whatever the system of balloting. When the 
list ballot is used and the voter votes for a list of candidates, it 
turns out that the number of candidates with some chance of 
succeeding is less than double the number of representatives to 
be elected. 

How do these organized minorities form about individual 
candidates or groups of candidates P 1 As a rule they are based on 
considerations of property and taxation, on common material 
interests, on ties of family, class, religion, sect or political party. 
Whether their component personnels be good or bad, there can 
be no doubt that such committees and the representatives who 
are now their tools, now their leaders or "bosses" represent the 
organization of a considerable number of social values and forces. 
In practice, therefore, the representative system results not at all 
in government by the majority; it results in the participation of 
a certain number of social values in the guidance of the state, 
in the fact that many political forces which in an absolute state, 
a state ruled by a bureaucracy alone, would remain inert and 
without influence upon government become organized and so 
exert an influence on government. 

. In examining the relations between the representative sys- 
tem and juridical defense, a number of distinctions and observa- 
tions have to be borne in mind. 

The great majority of voters are passive, it is true, in the sense 
that they have not so much freedom to choose their representa- 
tives as a limited right to exercise an option among a number of 
candidates. Nevertheless, limited as it may be, that capacity 
has the effect of obliging candidates to try to win a weight of 
votes that will serve to tip the scales in their direction, so that 
they make every effort to flatter, wheedle and obtain the good will 
of the voters. In this way certain sentiments and passions of the 
"common herd" come to have their influence on the mental 
attitudes of the representatives themselves, and echoes of a widely 
disseminated opinion, or of any serious discontent, easily come to 
be heard in the highest spheres of government. 

1 For a detailed discussion of this problem see Mosca, Le costituzioni moderne, 
chap. III. 


It may be objected that this influence of the majority of voters 
is necessarily confined to the broad lines of political policy and 
makes itself -felt only on a very few topics of a very general 
character, and that within limits as narrow as that even in abso- 
lute governments the ruling classes are obliged to take account 
of mass sentiments. In fact the most despotic of governments 
has to proceed very cautiously when it comes to shocking the 
sentiments, convictions or prejudices of the majority of the 
governed, or to requiring of that majority pecuniary sacrifices 
to which they are not accustomed. But wariness about giving 
offense will be much greater when every single representative, 
whose vote may be useful or necessary to the executive branch 
of government, knows that the discontent of the masses may at 
almost any moment bring about the triumph of a rival. We are 
aware that this is a two-edged argument. The masses are not 
always any wiser in discerning and protecting their interests 
than their representatives are; and we are acquainted with 
regions where public discontent has created greater obstacles to 
desirable reforms than the mistakes of parliamentary representa- 
tives and ministries. 

The representative system, furthermore, has widely different 
effects according as the molecular composition of the electoral 
body varies. If all the voters who have some influence, because 
of education or social position, are members of one or another of 
the organized minorities, and if only a mass of poor and ignorant 
citizens are left outside of them, it is impossible for the latter t^> 
exercise their right of option and control in any real or effective 
manner. In these circumstances, of the various organized 
minorities that are disputing the field, that one infallibly wins 
which spends most money or lies most persuasively. 

The same thing happens if persons of ability and economic 
independence represent only a slender minority within the elect- 
ing group and so have no way of influencing the vote of majorities 
directly. Then, as ordinarily happens in large cities, the majori- 
ties do not feel the moral and material influence of the "better 
elements." But when the ** better elements" do succeed in 
withdrawing the majority from the influence of committees and 
"ward heelers" and win its vote, their control over the conduct 
of the organized minorities becomes effective. It follows, there- 
fore, that the comparison of the merits and platforms of the van- 


ous candidates will be relatively serious and dispassionate only 
when electoral forces are not entirely under the control of men 
who make a regular profession or trade of electioneering. 

The real juridical safeguard in representative governments lies 
in the public discussion that takes place within representative 
assemblies. Into those assemblies the most disparate political 
forces and elements make their way, and the existence of a small 
independent minority is often enough to control the conduct of a 
large majority and, especially, to prevent the bureaucratic organi- 
zation from becoming omnipotent. But when, beyond being 
organs of discussion and publicizing, assemblies come to con- 
centrate all the prestige and power of legitimate authority in their 
own hands, as regularly happens in parliamentary governments, 
then in spite of the curb of public discussion the whole administra- 
tive and judiciary machine falls prey to the irresponsible and 
anonymous tyranny of those who win in the elections and speak 
in the name of the people, and we get one of the worst types of 
political organization that the real majority in a modern society 
can possibly be called upon to tolerate. 1 

In governments that are based very largely on the representa- 
tive principle the referendum is in some respects a fairly effective 
instrument. By it the mass of likes and dislikes, enthusiasms 
and angers, which, when they are truly widespread and truly 
general, constitute what may quite plausibly be called public 
opinion, is enabled to react against the conduct and enterprise 
of the governing minority. In a referendum it is a question 
not of making a choice, or an election, but of pronouncing a 
"yes" or a "no" upon a specific question. No single vote, 
therefore, is lost, and each single vote has its practical importance 
independently of any coordination or organization along lines 
of sect, party or committee. However, the democratic ideal 
of majority government is not realized even by the referendum. 
Governing is not altogether a matter of allowing or prohibiting 
modifications in constitutions or laws. It is quite as much a 
matter of managing the whole military, financial, judiciary and 
administrative machine, or of influencing those who manage it. 
Then again, even if the referendum does serve to limit the 
arbitrariness of the governing class, it is no less true that often it 
seriously hampers improvements in the political organism. 
1 See Seaman and Mosca; also SchSrer, La Democratic et la France. 


Such improvements will always be more readily appreciated 
by a governing class, however selfish and corrupt it may be, 
than by the ill-informed majority of the governed. In many 
countries, for instance, if increases in taxes were to be submitted 
to referendum, they would always be rejected, even though 
they were of the most unqualified urgency and would be of the 
most obvious benefit to the public. 

3. A question that is vigorously debated among writers on the 
social sciences is the extent to which the state should interfere 
in the various departments of social life, and more specifically 
in business. This problem involves, really, not one question 
but a group of questions, and we hope that by applying the 
theories that have been set forth in previous chapters we can 
help to dispel certain ambiguities and misconceptions which 
have so far hampered a clear and sound understanding of those 
questions, and prevented, in certain cases at least, the reaching 
of satisfactory conclusions. 

Still very widespread is the feeling that society and the state 
are two separate and distinct entities, and people often go so 
far as to consider them antagonistic. Now it is necessary, 
first of all, to decide very clearly what is meant by "society" 
and what is meant by "state." If we keep to legal codes and 
concepts of administrative law, the state is certainly a distinct 
entity which is capable of existing in a legal sense and which 
represents the interests of the group as a whole and administers 
the public demesne. As such an entity, the state has interests, 
and its interests may come into conflict with the interests of 
private individuals and with the interests of other juridical 
entities. Politically speaking, however, the state is jiothing 
more than the organization of all social forces that have a political 
significance. In other words, it is the sum total of all the 
elements in a society that are suited to exercising political 
functions and have the ability and the will to participate in 
them. In that sense, the state is the resultant of the coordina- 
tion and disciplining of those elements. 

That is the point of view from which the state "should be 
looked upon by students of the social sciences. The legalistic 
tendency to consider political problems purely and exclusively 
from the standpoint not so much of law as of court practice 


involves an ugly and a dangerous error, which still persists in 
our age though it has all along hampered an adequate under- 
standing of such problems. From our point of view there can 
be no antagonism between state and society. The state is to 
be looked upon merely as that part of society which performs 
the political function. Considered in this light, all questions 
touching interference or noninterference by the state come to 
assume a new aspect. Instead of asking what the limits of 
state activity ought to be, we try to find out what the best type 
of political organization is, which type, in other words, enables 
all the elements that have a political significance in a given 
society to be best utilized and specialized, best subjected to 
reciprocal control and to the principle of individual responsibility 
for the things that are done in the respective domains. 

When people contrast state management with private initia- 
tive they are often merely comparing work done by a bureaucracy 
with work that might be done by other directing elements in 
society. The latter may, in fact, in some cases actually have an 
official status without necessarily being paid employees. In 
societies of our European type, however extensively bureaucra- 
tized they may be, the bureaucracy is not the state but only a 
part of it. When, therefore, it is said, as people commonly 
say, that in Italy, France or Germany the state does everything 
and absorbs everything, the dictum has to be taken in the sense 
that the French, Italian or German bureaucracies have many 
more functions than the bureaucracies of other countries of 
England or the United States, let us say. In the same way, 
when we speak of the famous English "self-government," 
when we say that the English people "governs itself," we must 
not imagine, as we might be tempted to do if we kept to the 
literal meaning of the phrase, that on the Continent the French, 
the Italians, the Germans do not "govern themselves" but 
entrust the management of their respective political and admin- 
istrative institutions to others. We must understand simply 
that in England certain posts are entrusted to persons who are 
elected by popular vote or are even appointed by the govern- 
ment but who in any event are chosen from among the prominent 
people of the various districts, who are not paid for their services 
and who are not transferable at will, whereas the same posts are 
filled in other countries in Europe by salaried employees. 


4. As we have seen (chap. Ill, 8), state bureaucracies and 
the assemblies that wield supreme political power have partici- 
pated and still participate, in one country or another, in the 
management of certain branches of economic activity, for example 
in banking or in the construction and maintenance of public 
works; but management of economic production has never been 
completely bureaucratized in any society that has attained 
even a moderately high level of prosperity and civilization. 
In that branch of activity management has been and still is 
on the whole entrusted to elements who do, to be sure, form a 
part of the ruling forces of society and so are real political forces, 
but who do not appear on the payrolls of public administration. 
In general the intervention in economic enterprise of elements 
that exercise strictly political, in other words legislative, 
administrative, or judiciary, control over society, has been 
harmful, and a large share in the pauperization that is afflict- 
ing a number of modern countries must be ascribed to that 
interference. 1 

In general, those who insist on limiting the activities of the 
state should take as their guide the very simple and very practical 
principle that in every branch of social activity in education, 
religion, poor relief, military organization or the administration 
of justice management is always necessary, and that man- 
agerial functions have to be entrusted to a special class that has 
the abilities required for performing them. 

Now when one sets out to withdraw one of the above-mentioned 
functions in whole or in part from bureaucratic management, 
or from control by elective bodies, it must be borne in mind 
that there has to be present within the society a class of persons 
who possess the capacities, in other words have the moral and 
intellectual training and let us not forget the economic 
resources required for performing the new task which is to be 
turned over to them. It is not enough, oftentimes, that a 
society contain elements that are suitable for the given purpose. 
These elements have to be well chosen and well coordinated 
otherwise the experiment may fail or result in positive harm. 

1 See again chap. Ill, 8, where we mentioned such evils as the excessive 
development of public works, economic protectionism, the illegal or extralegal 
influence exercised over political authorities by directors of banks and great 
corporations, and the results of governmental interference in banking, 


We suspect, for instance, that that has been the real reason why 
the jury system has not worked so very well in many countries 
in continental Europe. Jurors, or "lay judges" as they have 
been called, represent the intervention in the administration 
of the penal law of social elements that are foreign to the regular 
magistracy. But jury panels are far too inclusive for all jury- 
men to be intellectually and morally equal to their tasks. Fur- 
thermore, too little distinction goes to the office of juror to bring 
jurymen such gratification of personal pride as to make them 
acquire that public spirit, that aristocratic sense, as we have 
called it, which is necessary to raise above the average the 
characters of the men to whom such delicate duties are entrusted. 
The same might be said of justices of the peace, citizen arbitrators 
and referees, charity and relief commissioners and, as regards 
Italy in particular, the holders of certain other offices that are 
entrusted to persons who are not members of the bureaucracy. 
It might be objected, of course, that the choices of incumbents 
for the offices in question are often made, more or less directly, 
by local elective bodies. 

On the other hand, those who favor broader activities on the 
part of the state ought to consider the practical and positive 
significance of the term "state," stripping it of everything 
about it that in common parlance is vague, indeterminate or, 
we might almost say, magical and supernatural. Often in our 
day state ownership or control is invoked as a remedy for all 
the evils of private competition for greed, for the passion for 
power, for the excesses of individualism or, more exactly, of 
selfishness. The state, it is said, is the organ of righteousness 
and moral progress. It ought to exalt the humble and abase 
the proud. Free of all vulgar preoccupations of personal 
interest, it ought to suppress all iniquities, provide for all material 
and moral needs and set mankind on the flowery pathways of 
justice, peace and universal harmony. 1 How much of its 
confidence thi^ soaring trust would lose if, instead of thinking 
of the state as an abstract entity, as something foreign to the real 
world, one were to bear clearly in mind that in reality the state 
is just the concrete organization of a large number of the elements 

*Qf. Dupont- White, L'Indwidu et FStat, p. 17fc: "The State is man minus 
passion, man at an altitude where he comes into touch with truth itself, where he 
associates only with God and his conscience." 


that rule in a given society, that when we speak of the state's 
influence we mean the influence that is to be exerted by govern- 
ment officials and government clerks! They are all very fine 
fellows, to be sure, but however much they may have been 
improved or chastened by their sense of responsibility, by 
discipline or pride of office, they nevertheless possess all human 
capacities and all human frailties. Like all men, they have 
eyes they can open or shut at will and mouths that can on 
occasion speak, be silent or even eat. 1 They too can sin through 
pride, sloth, cupidity and vanity. They too have their sym- 
pathies and antipathies, their friendships and aversions, their 
passions and interests and among their interests an interest 
in keeping their jobs or even in slipping into better ones if the 
occasion offers. 

1 [Ital. mangiare, to eat, take "graft'*]. 


1. Buff on reports that if a certain number of stags are shut 
up in a park they will inevitably divide into two herds which will 
always be in conflict with each other. An instinct of very much 
the same sort seems to make its influence felt among men. 
Human beings have a natural inclination toward struggle, but 
it is only sporadically that the struggle assumes an individual 
character, that one man is at war with another. Even when he 
fights, man remains preeminently a social animal. Ordinarily, 
therefore, we see men forming into groups, each group made up of 
leaders and followers. The individuals who make up a group are 
conscious of a special brotherhood and oneness with each other 
and vent their pugnacious instincts on members of other groups. 

This instinct of herding together and fighting with other herds 
is the prime basis and original foundation of the external conflicts 
that occur between different societies; but it also underlies the 
formation of all the divisions and subdivisions all the factions, 
sects, parties and, in a certain sense, the churches that arise 
within a given society and occasion moral and, sometimes, 
physical conflicts. In very small and primitive societies, where 
there is great moral and intellectual unity and individual mem- 
bers all have the same customs, the same beliefs, the same 
superstitions, the instinct mentioned may alone suffice to keep 
discordant and warlike habits alive. The Arabs and the Kabyles 
in Barbary share the same religious beliefs. They have the 
same degree and the same type of intellectual and moral culture. 
Yet, before the coming of the French, when they were not fighting 
against the infidels in Algeria and Tunis, against the Turks in 
Tripoli or against the sultan in Morocco, they were fighting 
among themselves. Each confederation of tribes stood in 
rivalry or at open war with its neighbor confederation. There 
was discord within each confederation and often "gunpowder 
was made to talk" between sister tribes. Within the tribe the 



various douars were at swords' points, and often the douar was 
split by quarrels between the separate families. 1 

At other times, when social environments are very circum- 
scribed, internal conflicts arise among minute sections of fairly 
civilized peoples. There may be no moral and intellectual 
differences between the enemy parties to justify such conflicts, 
or even if such differences exist they are used as mere pretexts. 
So the terms "Guelph" and "Ghibelline" supplied pretext and 
occasion, rather than cause, for intestine struggles in the medieval 
Italian communes; and the same may be said of the terms 
"liberal," "clerical," "radical" and "socialist," which were 
bandied about by the factions that used to compete for adminis- 
trative posts in the little towns of southern Italy. At moments 
of exceptional intellectual apathy, pretexts even the most 
frivolous pretexts may occasion serious conflicts within great 
and highly civilized societies. In Byzantium, during and after 
the reign of Justinian, the city streets were often stained with 
blood by struggles between two parties, the Greens and the Blues 
(the "Prasinians" and the "Venetians"). Now those "gangs" 
originated in the circus, the spectators taking sides with the 
charioteers who raced under the two different colors. Eventu- 
ally, to be sure, one faction or another at court would try to 
make use of the one or the other of the gangs. Now the Greens, 
now the Blues, enjoyed imperial favor, so that the parties came to 
acquire a certain political importance, without ever quite losing 
their status as personal "sets," or gangs. Something remotely 
similar went on in a number of Italian cities before 1848, when 
men of the younger generation would form hostile cliques and 
factions about the merits of some prima donna or ballet girl. 

. In small societies as in large, when the hunger for conflict 
finds a vent in foreign rivalries and wars it is to an extent appeased 
and so less readily seeks expression in civil discords or internal 
strife. On closely scrutinizing the nature of the political parties, 
the philosophical sects, the religious factions that everywhere 
develop within civilized societies, one sees that the pugnacious 

1 In Algeria and Tunis the consolidation of French rule ended the day of 
revolts against foreign conquerors, and all but stopped internal wars between the 
various tribes. The same thing, one may venture to predict, will eventually 
happen in Tripoli and Cyrenaica and, perhaps somewhat later, in Morocco. 


instinct of herding and fighting, which is the most primitive and, 
so to say, the most "animal" of the instincts, is mixed with other 
intellectual and psychological factors that are more complex and 
more human. In large, highly civilized societies, which are 
held together not only by moral and intellectual affinities but 
also by strong and complicated political organizations, a much 
greater speculative and affective freedom is possible than in 
small and loosely organized societies. In a great people, there- 
fore, political and religious conflicts are further determined by 
the large number of currents of ideas, beliefs and attachments 
that succeed in asserting themselves by the formation of 
different intellectual and moral crucibles within which the con- 
victions and sentiments of single individuals are variously 
fused and alloyed. 

So we see Buddhism developing within Brahman society; 
prophetism and, later on, the various schools of the Sadducees, 
the Essenes and the Zealots, keeping the life of Israel in ferment; 
Stoicism, Manichaeism, Christianity and the cult of Mithras 
competing for supremacy in the Helleno-Roman world ; Mazdaism 
a modification of Manichaeism with a marked tendency 
toward communism in wealth and women sweeping through 
the Persia of the Sassanids; Mohammedanism starting in Arabia 
and spreading rapidly into Asia, Africa and Europe. Phenomena 
altogether similar, though molded to the more rationalistic char- 
acter of modern European civilization, are the liberalism and 
radicalism of the nineteenth century and, better yet, social 
democracy, which started almost contemporaneously with 
liberalism but has maintained its proselyting efficiency longer, so 
that it will continue to be one of the most significant historical 
factors in the twentieth century as it was in the nineteenth. 
Besides the movements we have just named, it would be easy 
to trace a great many other minor currents in the history of 
civilized peoples, doctrines which have been more or less fortu- 
nate and have had more or less widespread vogues, but which 
in any event have helped to feed the instincts for contention, 
struggle, self-sacrifice and persecution that are so deeply rooted 
in the hearts of men. 

All these doctrines, all these currents of ideas, sentiments, 
convictions, seem to originate in somewhat the same way, and 
they all seem to present certain constant characteristics in their 


early beginnings. The human being so feeble a creature in 
dealing with his own passions and the passions of others, often 
more selfish than need requires, as a rule vain, envious, petty 
very rarely fails to keep two great aspirations before his eyes, 
two sentiments that ennoble, uplift and purify him. He seeks 
the truth, he loves justice; and sometimes he is able to sacrifice 
to those two ideals some part of the satisfaction he would other- 
wise give to his passions and his material interests. Far more 
complex and sensitive a being than the savage and the barbarian, 
civilized man may in some cases rise to a most delicate con- 
ception of these two sentiments. 

At certain moments in the history of a given society, an 
individual rises with the conviction that he has something new 
to say with regard to the search for truth, or a loftier doctrine 
to teach with regard to the better realization of justice. Such 
an individual, if he has certain endowments of character, and if 
environment and any number of other incidental circumstances 
favor, is the seed that may produce a tree with branches spreading 
far abroad over large parts of the world. 

3. History has not always preserved all the details that we 
might wish to have about the lives of these founders of religious 
and politico-social schools the latter are in a sense religions 
too, though shorn of strictly theological elements. Some 
biographies, however, are fairly well known. The lives of 
Mohammed, Luther, Calvin and especially Rousseau, who left 
his memoirs, can be analyzed with relative adequacy. 

A fundamental quality that all such people must have is, 
it would seem, a profound sense of their own importance or, 
better, a sincere belief in the efficacy of their work. If they 
believe in God, they will always consider themselves destined by 
the Omnipotent to reform religion and save humanity. Undoubt- 
edly it is not to such men that one should look for a perfect 
balance of all the intellectual and moral faculties. But neither 
can they be considered altogether mad insanity is a disease 
that presupposes in the patient an earlier state of sanity. They 
are rather to be classed with so-called eccentrics, or fanatics, 
in the sense that they attach an exaggerated importance to 
certain phases of life, or of human activity, and stake their very 
lives and all the effort of which they are capable on one card, 


striving to attain their life's ideal by following unwonted paths 
which most people consider absurdly mistaken. But it is 
evident, on the other hand, that the man whose faculties are all 
in perfect balance, who has an exact perception of the results 
that he can achieve, as compared with the effort and sacrifice 
that will be required for achieving them, who takes a modest 
and sensible view of his own importance and of the real and 
abiding effects that his activity can have on the world in the 
ordinary course of human events, who calculates exactly and 
coldly the probabilities for and against his succeeding, will 
never launch out on any original and daring enterprise and will 
never do any very great things. If all men were normal and 
balanced the history of the world would be very different and, 
we must confess, not a little monotonous. 

Indispensable in the leader of a party, in the founder of a 
sect or a religion, or, one might say, in any "pastor of peoples" 
who would make his own personality felt and force society to 
follow his views, is a capacity for instilling his own convictions 
and especially his own enthusiasms into others, a capacity for 
inducing many to live the sort of intellectual and moral life that 
he wants them to live and to make sacrifices for the ideals that 
he has conceived. 

Not all reformers have the gift of communicating their own 
sentiments and passions to others. Those who lack it may have 
great originality of thought and feeling, but they are ineffectual 
in practical life and often end as prophets without believers, 
innovators without followers, misunderstood and ridiculed 
geniuses. Those who do possess it not only inspire their apostles 
and the masses with their enthusiasms, sometimes to the point 
of frenzy, but succeed in the end in awakening a sort of veneration 
for their persons, in becoming objects of worship, so that their 
least act acquires its importance, their every word is believed 
without discussion, their every nod is blindly obeyed. About 
them an aura of exaltation gathers. It is highly contagious 
and spurs converts to acts of daring and sacrifice that certainly 
could not be performed by individuals in a normal state of 

This explains the enormous success of certain preachers and 
certain teachers the extraordinary fortune, for instance, of 
types so different as St. Francis of Assisi and Abelard, so unlike 


in many respects but so alike in the art of interesting men. It 
explains why Mohammed was held in such veneration by his 
initiates and disciples that they collected his spittle reverently 
and cherished the hairs of his beard as relics, and why a mere hint 
on his part was enough to encompass the murder of a dangerous 
adversary. Speaking of someone whom he considered to be a 
great obstacle to his designs, Mohammed would say, in the 
presence of some young man of the more fanatical type: "Will 
no one ever free me of this dog?" The disciple would rush off 
and commit the murder. Afterwards, naturally, Mohammed 
would condemn the crime, declaring that he had ordered no such 
thing. Any number of leaders of sects and political parties 
have imitated Mohammed, consciously or unconsciously, in this 
respect. And how many of them are doing the same thing 
today! Plenty of people were always ready to rush into the 
most hazardous undertakings at a nod from Mazzini. The 
various enterprises in practical communism that were launched 
in the course of the nineteenth century, from Owen down to 
Fourier and Lazzaretti, never failed to find large numbers of 
persons willing and eager to sacrifice their worldly goods. When 
one of these political or religious "founders" happens to be a 
fighter, as Jan Ziska was, he manages to inspire his followers with 
an absolute certainty of victory and hence with uncommon 

Nor should we expect to find an altogether exquisite moral 
sense presiding uniformly over all acts in the lives of these 
eccentrics who initiate movements of ideas and sentiments. 
Any such expectation would be disappointed. Absorbed in the 
pursuit of their visions to the exclusion of everything else, they 
are always ready to suffer themselves and to make others suffer 
so long as their ends be attained. Generally, indeed, they feel 
a high disdain for everyday needs and for the material and 
immediate interests of life, or at least they are largely indifferent 
to them. Even when they do not say as much in words, they 
censure in their hearts people who are busy at sowing, reaping 
and storing away the harvests. They seem to feel certain that 
once the Kingdom of God, or Truth or Justice, in their sense of 
those terms, is established, human beings will be as easily fed 
as are the fowl of the air or the lilies of the field. When they 
live in rationalistic and ostensibly more positive times, they 


take no account of the depletion of public resources that a mere 
gesture toward actuating their ideals would occasion. 

There seem to be three periods through which the life of every 
great reformer passes. 

In a first period he is conceiving his doctrine and working 
it out in his mind. During that stage he may be acting in good 
faith. He can be called a fanatic, but not as yet a cheat and a 
charlatan. In a second period he begins to preach, and then the 
need of making an impression induces him inevitably "to lay 
on," to over stress certain colorings* and so to become a poseur. 
The third period comes if he is lucky enough to be able to make a 
practical attempt to put his teachings into practice. Once 
that stage is reached, he finds himself at grips with all the imper- 
fections and weaknesses of human nature, and he is obliged to 
compromise on the side of morals if he wants to succeed. All 
reformers agree deep down in their hearts that the end justifies 
the means, that if men are to be led they have to be fooled to a 
certain extent. So, moving on from compromise to compromise, 
they come to a point where the most acute psychologist would 
find it hard to tell exactly where their sincerity ends and acting 
and chicanery begin. 

Father Ohrwalder was for some years a prisoner of the Mah- 
dists and wrote an account of his experiences. At one point he 
describes Mohammed Ahmed, the slave trader who founded 
Mahdism, as a man inspired by a sincere religious zeal. At 
another point he makes him out a hypocrite and a charlatan. 
Father Ohrwalder was sharply criticized for that inconsistency. 
For our p^rt we find nothing implausible about the two judg- 
ments, especially since they refer to two different periods in the 
Mahdi's life. 

Certainly the most disparate moral elements may function 
simultaneously in the same individual. That was the case 
with Enfantin, the second high priest of Saint-Simonianism, to 
whom a disciple in the latter days of the movement wrote: 
"Others criticize you for trying to pose all the time. I agree 
with you in thinking that posing is in your nature. It is your 
mission, your gift." 1 Mohammed undeniably had a sincere 
and honest aspiration toward a religion that was less crude, 
less materialistic, than anything that had been practiced by the 

1 Thureau-Dangin, Histoire de la Monarchic de Juillet, vol. I, chap. VIII. 


Arabs before his time. Nevertheless the verses of the Koran, 
which the archangel Gabriel communicated to him one by one, 
arrived at most opportune moments to free him of irksome 
promises that he had made or from strict observance of moral 
laws that he had laid down for others in earlier verses. It 
became important for Mohammed at one time to increase the 
number of his wives to seven, in order that he might strengthen 
certain political ties and incidentally satisfy sentimental fancies. 
In the Koran he had expressly limited the number of legitimate 
wives to four, and the precept had been proclaimed for all 
believers. But along came the archangel Gabriel with a most 
convenient verse, which authorized the apostle of God to ignore 
his own injunction. 1 

To simplify our task we have been implicitly assuming 
that the founder of every new religion or philosophical doctrine 
is a single individual. That is not strictly true. At times, 
when a reform is morally and intellectually ripe in a historical 
sense and finds an environment that is perfectly attuned to it, 
several masters may come forward simultaneously. That 
was the case with Protestantism, when Luther, Zwingli and 
Calvin began to preach almost at the same time. Sometimes 
the success of a first master breeds competition and plagiarism. 
Moseilama, for instance, and not a few others, tried to imitate 
Mohammed, proclaiming themselves in their turn prophets of 
Allah. More frequent is the case where an innovator does not 
succeed in developing his doctrine fully, much less in putting it 
into practice. Then one or a dozen continuators may arise, and 
Fate the Unfair may name the doctrine after one of them instead 
of the real founder. That seems to be happening in modern 
socialism, of which Marx is generally proclaimed the founder. 
Its first intellectual and moral parent was undoubtedly Rousseau. 
The master or masters who continue the work of the first founder 
must not be confused with the mere apostles, of whom we are 
about to speak. 

4. About the individual who first formulates a new doctrine 
there always gathers a more or less populous group that receives 
the word directly from the master's lips and is profoundly 
imbued with his sentiments. Every messiah must have his 

1 Hammer-Purgstall, GemdldesaaL 


apostles, since, in almost all the manifestations of his moral and 
material activity, the human being needs society; there is no 
enthusiasm that does not wane, no faith that does not falter, 
under prolonged isolation. The school, the church, the agape, 
the lodge, the "regular meeting" any grouping, whatever it 
chances to be called, of persons who feel and think the same way, 
who have the same enthusiasms, the same hates, the same loves , 
the same interpretation of life intensifies, exalts and develops 
their sentiments and so works these into the character of each 
individual member that the stamp of the association is indelible 
upon him. 

Within this directing group, as a rule, the original inspiration 
of the master is developed, refined, worked out, so as to become a 
real political, religious or philosophical system, unblemished by 
too many inconsistencies and contradictions, or too obvious ones. 
Within this group the sacred fire of propaganda is kept burning 
even after the first author of the doctrine has vanished; and to 
this nucleus, which is recruited automatically by a process of 
selection and segregation, the future of the new doctrine is 
entrusted. However exceptional the master's originality of 
vision, his strength of feeling, his aptitude for propaganda, those 
qualities are without avail if he does not succeed in founding a 
school before his material or spiritual death; whereas, when the 
breath that animates the school is healthy and vigorous, all the 
inadequacies and flaws which may later be detected in the work 
of the founder can be overlooked or corrected little by little, 
and the propaganda will continue active and influential. 

Outside the directing nucleus comes the throng of proselytes. 
While this group constitutes the stronger element numerically, 
and supplies the church or party with its material strength and 
its economic basis, it is the most negligible factor intellectually 
and morally. A number of modern sociologists declare that 
the masses are conservative and "misoneistic" chary of 
novelties. That means that the masses are hard to win to a new 
faith. However, once they are won to it, they abandon it with 
the greatest reluctance, and when they do drop away, the fault 
lies almost always with the promoting nucleus. This latter 
group is always the first to be affected by indifference and skepti- 
cism. The best way to make others believe is to be profoundly 
convinced oneself the art of arousing pas, : jn lies in one's own 


capacity for being intensely aroused. When the priest does not 
feel his faith, the congregation becomes indifferent and is ripe for 
conversion to some other doctrine that finds a more zealous 
minister. If the officer is not imbued with the military spirit, if 
he is not ready to give his life for the dignity of his flag, the 
soldier will not die at his post. If the sectarian is not a fanatic, 
he will never sweep the crowds into rebellion. 

In the case of ancient doctrines, or beliefs that have been 
established for some length of time and so have acquired tradi- 
tions and fixed and circumscribed fields of activity, birth gener- 
ally determines the individual's acceptance of them and his 
membership in the orgaijizations that have formed around them. 
In Germany or the United States, one is almost always Catholic, 
Protestant or Jew, depending on the religion of the family into 
which one is born. In Spain and Italy, anyone who has any 
religion left is almost always a Catholic. But if a number of 
different doctrines are still in process of formation in a country, 
have active propagandas and are competing for adherents back 
and forth, then the personal choice of the individual of average 
intelligence depends upon a mass of circumstances, partly 
accidental and partly resulting from the skill with which the 
propaganda is carried on. In France a young man becomes a 
conservative or a radical according as the ideas of his father, his 
teacher at school or his schoolmates chance to exercise the greater 
influence over him at the moment when his ideas begin to form. 
At an age when a boy's general ideas are still plastic and he is 
conscious mainly of a need to be aroused emotionally, to love or 
to hate something or someone, a book that comes into his hands, 
a newspaper to which he has daily access, may determine the 
whole trend of his after life. For many people, political, religious 
or philosophical opinions are, at bottom, very secondary matters, 
especially when the first flush of youth has passed and the age of 
practical occupations, of "business," comes. So, to some 
extent through indolence, to some extent through habit, partly 
again through mistaken pride and respect for so-called consistency 
of character, a man often ends, when no strong conflict with his 
interests is involved, by keeping all his life long a doctrine that he 
embraced in a moment of youthful impulse, devoting to it such 
little energy and activity as the practical man is wont to set 
apart for what is called "the ideal." 


However, from the fact that the individual's choice of a belief 
or a political party may largely be determined by chance, it does 
not follow that chance is the main factor in the success of any 
given school or church. Some doctrines are well suited to 
making proselytes, others are less so. Whether a political or 
religious teaching is to win wide acceptance depends almost 
exclusively on three factors. In the first place it must be 
adapted to the given historical moment. In the second place, 
it must satisfy the greatest possible number of human passions, 
sentiments and inclinations, particularly such as are most widely 
diffused and most firmly rooted in the public. In the third place, 
it must have a well-organized directing nucleus, or "executive 
committee," made up of individuals who consecrate their lives 
to the maintenance and propagation of the spirit that animates 
the faith. 

5. For a doctrine to be adapted to a given historical moment 
in a given society, it must above all correspond to the degree of 
maturity which the human mind has attained at that moment 
in that society. A monotheistic religion will easily triumph 
when minds have progressed sufficiently to comprehend that all 
natural phenomena may be ascribed to one cause, and that the 
force that rules the universe is one. Rationalism can be taken 
as the basis of successful doctrines when free inquiry and the 
results of the natural and historical sciences have undermined 
belief in revealed religions, and the conception of a God created 
in the image and likeness of man and intervening arbitrarily in 
human events has come to seem absurd to the ruling classes. 

In the centuries when Christianity was spreading through the 
Roman Empire, almost everyone, pagans and Christians alike, 
believed in the supernatural and in miracles; but the pagan 
supernatural had become too gross and incoherent, while the 
Christian supernatural, besides better answering certain needs 
of the human spirit, was more systematic and less childish, and 
so was destined to triumph. Lucian was an utter skeptic, 
laughing at everyone now at the pagans, now at the Christians. 
But he was an exception in the second century of our era. The 
mean intelligence of the educated public of that time was better 
represented by Celsus, who was a deist and believed in the 
supernatural and in miracles but nevertheless ridiculed the Old 


and the New Testaments. But since Celsus had started out on 
the path which is so satisfactory to rationalists and which, in 
fact, sixteen centuries later and under far different conditions, 
was to turn out so well for Voltaire, he should have seen that it 
would have been much easier to provoke ridicule and disgust 
for the disgraceful license and childish squabblings of the gods 
of Olympus than for the Christian histories. It is evident enough 
to us in our day that classical paganism had for some time been 
incapable of satisfying either the emotions or the intelligence of 
the people of that period. As Renan well observes, 1 if the 
Greco-Roman world had not become Christian, it would have 
been converted to Mithraism, or to some other Asiatic religion 
that was at once more mystical than classical paganism and less 

So it was with Rousseau. He emerged and prospered at a 
time when first humanism and the Reformation, then the progress 
of the exact and natural sciences, then finally Voltaire and 
the Encyclopaedia, had discredited the whole Christian and 
medieval world, so that a new rational we do not say reason- 
able explanation of political institutions was in a position to 
win acceptance. If we analyze the lives of Luther and 
Mohammed it is easy to see that at the time when they appeared 
Germany and Arabia were ready to welcome their doctrines. 

When the human being has a certain culture and is not under 
any engrossing pressure of material needs, he generally manifests 
a tendency to rise above the ordinary preoccupations of life and 
interest himself in something higher than himself, something 
that concerns the interests of the society to which he belongs. 
It is much easier for a new doctrine to prosper, accordingly, 
in places and situations where this idealistic tendency is not able 
to find satisfaction in the political system in its prevailing forms, 
and where, therefore, a man's enthusiasms and ambitions, his 
love of combat, his instincts for leadership, do not find a ready 
outlet. Christianity would certainly not have spread so rapidly 
in Rome in the days of the republic, when the state could offer 
its citizens the excitements of election campaigns, or when it 
was waging its terrible duel witt Carthage. But the empire 
brought peace. It quieted conflicts between the nations and 
entrusted all public functions to salaried employees. That 
1 More particularly in Marc Aur&e. 


prepared the ground for a long period of security and political 
repose that rendered the new religion the best possible service. 
In the age just past, the consolidation of the bureaucratic state, 
the ending of religious wars, the growth of a cultured, well-to-do 
class that had no part in political functions, supplied the basis 
first for the liberal and then for the radical socialist movements. 
Nations sometimes have periods of, so to say, psychological 
exhaustion, when they seem to need repose. That is what we 
mean when we say, with less aptness of phrase, perhaps, that a 
people has grown old. At any rate, if a society has had no 
revolutions and undergone no serious political changes for some 
centuries, when it begins at last to emerge from its long torpor 
it is much more easily persuaded that the triumph of a new 
doctrine, the establishment of a new form of government, will 
mark the beginning of a new era, a new golden age, and that on 
its advent all men will become good and happy in a new land of 
Cathay. That was the characteristic illusion in France around 
1789. It was to an extent the illusion in Italy in 1848. 

On the other hand, after a series of disturbances and changes, 
the enthusiasm and faith that political innovators and political 
novelties have inspired tends to fall off considerably, and a vague 
feeling of skepticism and fatigue spreads through the masses. 
However, capacity for faith and enthusiasm is exhausted far less 
readily than might appear at first sight. Disillusionment has 
little effect, on the whole, upon religious doctrines that are based 
on the supernatural, that solve problems relating to the prime 
cause of the universe or that postpone realization of the ideals of 
happiness and justice to another life. 

But strangely enough, even doctrines that are apparently more 
realistic and should yield their fruits in this life succeed very well 
in surviving the refutations of them that are supplied by experi- 
ence and the facts of everyday living. After all, illusions endure 
because illusion is a need for almost all men, a need that they feel 
no less strongly than their material needs. A system of illusions, 
therefore, is not easily discredited until it can be replaced with a 
new system. As we often see, when that is not possible, not 
even a sequence of sufferings, of terrible trials born of experiences 
more terrible still, is enough to disenchant a people; or, more 
exactly, discouragement rather than disillusionment settles upon 
that people and endures as long as the generation that has per- 


sonally suffered still lives. But after that, if there has been no 
change in the trend of ideas and in the education of sentiments, 
the moment social energies have somewhat revived, the same 
illusions produce new conflicts and new misfortunes over again. 
Moreover it is in the nature of men to retain favorable memories 
of the days during which they suffered, and of the individuals 
who caused their sufferings. That is the case especially when a 
certain length of time has elapsed. The masses always end by 
admiring and draping in poetic legend leaders like Napoleon, who 
have brought untold pain and misfortune upon them but who at 
the same time have satisfied their need for ennobling emotions 
and their fantastic craving for novelties and great things. 

6. The capacity of a doctrine to satisfy the needs of the human 
spirit depends not only upon requirements of time and place 
but also upon conditions that are independent of time and place 
upon basic psychological laws that must not be disregarded. 
In fact, this second element in the success of ambitious political 
and religious doctrines is an exceedingly important one. 

As a general rule, if a system of ideas, beliefs, feelings, is to be 
accepted by great masses of human beings, it must address the 
loftier sentiments of the human spirit: it must promise that 
justice and equality will reign in this world, or in some other, or 
it must proclaim that the good will be rewarded and the wicked 
punished. At the same time it will not go far wrong if it yields 
some small satisfaction to the envy and rancor that are generally 
felt toward the powerful and the fortunate and intimates that*- in 
this life or in some other, there will come a time when the last 
shall be first and the first last. It will help if some phase of the 
doctrine can manage to offer a refuge for good souls, gentle souls, 
who seek in meditation and resignation some solace from the 
conflicts and disappointments of life. It will be useful, also 
one might even say indispensable f or the doctrine to have some 
means of utilizing the spirit of abnegation and sacrifice that 
predominates in certain individuals and of guiding it into proper 
channels, though the same doctrine must also leave some little 
elbowroom for pride and vanity. 

It follows, therefore, that believers must always be "the 
people" or "the better people," or "progressive spirits," who 
speak for the vanguard of real progress. So the Christian 


must be enabled to think with complacency that everybody 
not of the Christian faith will be damned. The Brahman must 
be given grounds for rejoicing that he alone is descended from the 
head of Brahma and has the exalted honor of reading the sacred 
books. The Buddhist must be taught highly to prize the privi- 
lege he has of attaining Nirvana soonest. The Mohammedan 
must recall with satisfaction that he alone is the true believer, 
and that all others are iiffidel dogs in this life and tormented 
dogs in the next. The radical socialist must be convinced that 
all who do not think as he does are either selfish, money-spoiled 
bourgeois or ignorant and servile simpletons. These are all 
examples of arguments that provide for one's need of esteeming 
one's self and one's own religion or convictions and at the same 
time for the need of despising and hating others. 

From hatred to conflict is only a step. In fact there is no 
political party or religious sect that does not envisage war 
bloody or not, as the case may turn out upon those who do not 
accept its dogmas. If it eschews conflict altogether and preaches 
compassion and submission in all cases, that is just a sign that 
it is conscious of weakness and thinks it would be risking too 
much in undertaking a war. In struggle, besides, all the less 
noble but nonetheless widespread appetites of the human heart 
are taken account of love of luxury, lust for blood and women, 
ambition to command and to tyrannize. 

Certainly no recipe can be given for founding an enduring 
political party or religious doctrine that will contain the exact 
dosages required for satisfying every human sentiment. But one 
may declare with all assurance that to realize the purpose 
mentioned there must be a fusion, in certain amounts, of lofty 
sentiments and low passions, of precious metal and base metal-^- 
otherwise the alloy will not stand the wear and tear. A doctrine 
that does not take sufficient account of the differing and contra- 
dictory qualities that human nature shows has little power of 
appeal, and it will have to be revamped in that respect if it is to 
gain a permanent following. The mingling of good and evil is so 
inborn in human nature that a certain amount of fine metal must 
be present even in the alloys of which criminal gangs, secret 
societies and murderous sects are compounded; and a little of 
the base metal must enter into the complex of sentiments that 
inspires companies of heroes and ascetic communities that make 


fetish of self-sacrifice. Too great a deficiency, therefore, of 
either the good or the bad elements always has the same results: 
it prevents any wide dissemination of the doctrine, or the special 
discipline, that the given sect enforces upon its members. 

There have been, as there still are, organized groups of bandits 
that preach theft, murder and the destruction of property. But 
in such cases the perpetration of the criminal act is almost always 
colored with some specious political or religious doctrine that 
serves to decoy into the company some misguided person who is 
not wholly contemptible, whose crumb of respectability renders 
common turpitude more bearable to the public and introduces 
into the association a modicum of moral sense that is indispensable 
if a villainy is to succeed. Bismarck is credited with the apo- 
thegm that a man needs a little honesty to be a perfect rascal. 
The Sicilian Maffia, among other criminal associations, had its 
rules of ethics, and its members a certain sense of honor. The 
Maffiusi sometimes kept their word with nonmembers, and they 
rarely betrayed each other. It is mainly to the limitations 
they set to their wrongdoing that certain criminal associations 
owe their extraordinarily long lives. Macaulay observes that 
murder plots almost never succeed in England proper because 
English murderers lack the grain of moral sense that is essential 
to mutual trust. He may have been right or wrong as to the 
fact; the corollary he derives from it is certainly sound. 

We have an example of societies of the type mentioned in the 
Assassins, who ravaged Syria and 'Iraq 'Arabi in the Middle Ages. 
The Assassins were a degenerate wing of the Ismailians, a rela- 
tively innocuous sect that had a wide following in the Moham- 
medan world about the year 1100. The doctrine and discipline 
of the sect had many points in common with present-day Free- 
masonry in the Latin countries. 1 The Thugs, or Stranglers, 
were famous in India down to the middle of the last century. 
Almost all travelers who have written about China speak of 
secret societies. Some of them are country-wide and have, or 
pretend to have, strictly political objectives. To the list might 
be added the "underground" political movements that are com- 
mon today in Europe and America. 

1 Ckvel, Qeschiedenw der wijmdselarij; Amari, Storia dei Musulmani in Sieilia, 
vol. II, pp. 119 f.; Hammer-Purgstall, History of the Assassins. 


On the other hand, certain associations of human beings are 
founded upon the renunciation of every worldly vanity and 
pleasure, on the complete sacrifice of the member's personality, 
either to the advantage of the association or to the advantage of 
all humanity. The bonze convents in the Buddhist world and 
the Catholic religious orders in the West are familiar examples of 
this type of institution. These associations are in general 
recruited from among individuals who are specially fitted 
for their calling, either through peculiar circumstances in 
their personal lives or through a natural inclination toward self- 
sacrifice and resignation. We cannot say, however, that they 
are wholly exempt from worldly passions. A desire to win the 
admiration of the devout, the ambition of many individuals to 
excel within the order, and an even stronger ambition that the 
order shall surpass rival orders these are all powerful motives 
that have contributed to the long and prosperous lives of such 

But in all these cases, though we see that a bit of good is 
always found mixed in with the evil, and that a bit of evil always 
sours the good, we are still confronted by the fact that such 
associations are still none too large. They have never embraced 
all the members of a great human society. In spite of all the 
specious justifications of crime that have been devised, sects of 
murderers and thieves have never been more than diseased social 
excrescences. They may have succeeded for a time in terrorizing, 
or even influencing, wide areas. They have never converted a 
great people to their principles. The monastery too has always 
been an exception, and wherever the monastic life has spread and 
become the habitual occupation of any considerable part of a 
population, the order has rapidly strayed from its original princi- 
ples. The Ebionite churches of early Christian days required all 
the faithful to pool their earnings, and they sought to extend the 
monastic type over all Christian society. However, the sect led a 
hand-to-mouth existence and soon disappeared, for if any amount 
of abnegation may be obtained from a small number of chosen 
individuals who are trained by an apposite discipline, the same 
thing is not possible with a whole human mass, in which the good 
is necessarily mingled with the bad and needs and passions of all 
sorts have to be reckoned with. For that reason, if an experi- 


meat in social regeneration is to prove anything it has to be 
applied to an entire people, granted that one can be found to lend 
itself to such an experiment or can be forced to do so. 

7. For all these reasons a religion with too lofty a moral 
system produces at the most those good, and indeed far from 
disparageable, results that come from a man's making an effort to 
attain an ideal that lies beyond his powers of attainment. But in 
practice such a religion must end by being observed with scant 
scrupulousness. The continuous conflict between religious belief 
and human necessity, between the thing recognized as holy and 
conforming with divine law and the thing that is done, and 
indeed has to be done, constitutes the eternal contradiction, the 
inevitable hypocrisy, that appears in the lives of many peoples, 
and by no means of Christian peoples only. A short time before 
Christianity became, thanks to Constantine, the official religion 
of the Roman Empire, the good Lactantius exclaimed: 

If only the true God were honored [that is, if all men were converted 
to Christianity], there would be no more dissensions or wars. Men 
would all be united by the ties of an indissoluble love, for they would 
all look upon each other as brothers. No one would contrive further 
snares to be rid of his neighbor. Each would be content with little, 
and there would be no more frauds and thefts. How blessed then 
would be man's estate! What a golden age would dawn upon the 
world! 1 

Such,, in fact, had to be the opinion of a Christian, for he was 
convinced that every believer should put the precepts and spirit 
of his religion integrally into practice and thought it quite 
possible for a whole society to observe them as they were observed 
by those chosen spirits who, at the cost of their lives, refused to 
deny their faith in the face of Diocletian's persecution. But 
if Lactantius had lived only fifty years longer he might have 
perceived that no religion can of itself raise the moral level of an 
entire people very rapidly or to any great extent. Had he been 
reborn in the Middle Ages, he could have satisfied himself that 
by adapting itself more and more to shifting historical circum- 
stances and to the perennial demands of the human spirit, the 
same religion that had supplied the martyr and was supplying 

1 Quoted by Boissier, "Le Christianisme et 1'invasion des barbares," p. 951. 


the missionary could just as readily supply the crusader aad the 

Mohammedans in general observe the Koran far more scrupu- 
lously than Christians observe the Gospel, but that is due not 
only to a blinder faith (which in turn is due to a lower scientific 
level) but also to the fact that the prescriptions of Mohammed 
are morally less lofty, and so are humanly more realizable, than 
the prescriptions of Jesus. Those who practice Islamism in 
general abstain very strictly from wine and pork, but an indi- 
vidual who has never tasted wine or pork feels no appreciable 
discomfort if he is deprived of them. For that matter, it seems 
that when Mussulmans have lived with Christians in countries 
that produce wine extensively, they have observed the precepts 
of the Prophet on the subject of intoxicating liquors less scrupu- 
lously. The history of the Saracens in Sicily shows not a few 
cases of drunkenness among Mohammedans. Ebn-El Theman, 
emir of Catania, was in a state of complete intoxication when he 
ordered the veins of his wife, a sister of the emir of Palermo, 
to be opened. An Arab poet, Ibn-Hamdis, sang the praises of 
the good wine of Syracuse, its amber color and its rnusklike 
fragrance. 1 

Adultery, again, is much rarer among adherents of Islam 
than among Christians, but divorce is much easier among the 
former and Mohammed allows a man several wives and does 
not prohibit relations with slaves. Believers in Islam are 
strongly advised to give alms to members of their faith and to 
be lavish with them in every sort of assistance, but they are also 
taught that to exterminate infidels in war and to levy tribute 
on them in peace are meritorious acts. At bottom, therefore, the 
Koran serves prescriptions to suit all tastes and, if one remains 
faithful to it in the letter and the spirit, one can get to paradise 
by any number of broad highways. Not a few Islamic doc- 
trines, meantime, chance to conflict with some of the stronger 
and more deeply rooted instincts of human nature. They 
are the ones that least influence the conduct of Mussulmans. 
Mohammed, for instance, promises paradise to all who fall in a 
holy war. Now if every believer were to guide his conduct by 
that assurance in the Koran, every time a Mohammedan army 
found itself faced by unbelievers it ought either to conquer or to 
1 Amari, Stona dei Mimtlmani in Sicilw, vol. II, p, 531, 


fall to the last man. It cannot be denied that a certain number 
of individuals do live up to the letter of the Prophet's word, but 
as between defeat and death followed by eternal bliss, the 
majority of Mohammedans normally elect defeat. 

Buddhists, in general, are strict in observing the outward 
precepts of their religion, yet in putting the spirit of the precepts 
into practice they are as deft as the Christians at avoiding 
embarrassment by making, to use Moliere's phrase, their arrange- 
ments with Heaven. The next to the last king of Burma was 
the wise and canny Meudoume-Men. Besides governing his 
subjects well, he had an enthusiastic interest in religious and 
philosophical discussion and regularly summoned to his presence 
all Englishmen and Europeans of distinction who passed through 
Mandalay, the capital of his dominions. In his discourses with 
them he always upheld the superiority of Buddhist ethics to the 
morals preached by other religions and never failed to call the 
attention of his guests to the fact that the conduct of Christians 
did not always conform to the precepts of Christian doctrine. 
Certainly it could have cost him no great effort to show that the 
behavior of the English in wresting a portion of Burmese territory 
from his predecessor was in no way consistent with the Gospel. 
He, on his side, 'had been brought up in a bonze monastery. He 
conscientiously observed the prescriptions of Buddha. At his 
court no animal was ever slaughtered, and Europeans who stayed 
there for any length of time found the vegetable diet irksome 
and were obliged secretly to fill out by hunting birds' eggs in the 
woods. Not only that. Meudoume-Men would never, for any 
reason in the world, order a capital execution. In fact, when 
anybody's presence inconvenienced him too seriously, the wily 
monarch would merely ask of his prime minister whether So- 
and-so were still of this world. And when, after many repetitions 
of the question, the prime minister would finally answer no, 
Meudoume-Men would smile contentedly. He had violated no 
precept of his religion but still had made his point: which was that 
a certain human soul should begin somewhat earlier than might 
normally have been expected the series of transmigrations that 
leads at last, as the Buddhist faith assures, to fusion with the 
universal soul. 1 

1 Plauchut, "Un Royaume disparu." 


The doctrine of the ancient Stoics was essentially virile and 
except, perhaps, as regards "pose" and vanity, which were 
common frailties among them made little, if any, concession to 
the passions, weaknesses or sentiments of men. But for that 
very reason the influence of Stoicism was limited to a section of 
the cultured classes. The pagan masses remained wholly alien 
to its propaganda. The Stoic school may have helped, at certain 
periods, to form the character of a part of the ruling class in the 
Roman Empire. To it, undoubtedly, a number of good emperors 
owed their training. But from the moment that its members no 
longer cluttered the steps of a throne it was completely ineffectual. 
Powerless to change, because its intellectual and strictly phil- 
osophical side quite overshadowed its dogmatic and emotional 
sides, it could not compete with Christianity for control of the 
Roman world, and it would have succeeded no better in competi- 
tion with Judaism, Islam or Buddhism. 

One could not maintain that it makes no difference whether a 
people embraces one religion or political doctrine or another. It 
would be difficult to show that the practical effects of Christianity 
are not different from those of Mohammedanism or socialism. 
In the long run a belief does give a certain bent to human senti- 
ments, and such bents may have far-reaching consequences, 
But it seems certain that no belief will ever succeed in making the 
human being anything essentially different from what he is. To 
state the situation in other words, no belief will ever make men 
wholly good or wholly bad, wholly altruistic or wholly selfish. 
Some adaptation to the lower moral and emotional level that 
corresponds to the human average is indispensable in all religions. 
Those who refuse to recognize that fact make it easier, it seems to 
us, for people who use the relative inefficacy of religious senti- 
ments and political doctrines as an argument to prove their 
absolute inefficacy. There comes to mind in this connection an 
opinion that has often been expressed. The bandits of southern 
Italy usually went about in true South Italian style, laden with 
scapulars and images of saints and madonnas. At the same time 
they were often guilty of murders and other crimes whence the 
conclusion that religious beliefs had no practical influence upon 
them. Now, before such an inference could with justice be 
drawn, one would have to show that if the bandits had not 


carried scapulars and madonnas they would not have committed 
additional murders or acts of ferocity. If the images saved a 
single human life, a single pang of sorrow, a single tear, there 
would be adequate grounds for crediting them with some 

8. As we have seen (4, above), a third factor figures in the 
spread and survival of any system of religious or political ideas 
namely, the organization of the directing nucleus and the means 
it employs for converting the masses or holding them loyal to a 
given belief or doctrine. As we also have seen, the nucleus 
originates in the first instance in a spontaneous process of selec- 
tion and segregation. Thereafter its cohesion is based in the 
main on a phenomenon of the human spirit which we have called 
"mimetism," or imitation the tendency of an individual's 
passions, sentiments and beliefs to develop in accord with the 
currents that prevail in the environment in which he is morally 
formed and educated. It is altogether natural that in a country 
that has attained some degree of culture a certain number of 
young people should have a capacity for developing enthusiasms 
about what they hold to be true and ethical, about ideas which, in 
semblance at least, are generous and lofty and concern the 
destiny of a nation or of humanity at large. 

These sentiments and the spirit of abnegation and self-sacrifice 
that result from them may remain in a state of potentiality and 
become atrophied, or they may enjoy a luxuriant blossoming, 
according as they are cultivated or not; and the fruits they 
yield differ widely according to the differing ways in which they 
are cultivated. 

In the son of a shopkeeper who comes into contact with no one 
except the customers and clerks in his father's place of business, 
the sentiments mentioned will probably never amount to very 
much or even manifest themselves at all, unless the boy be one 
of those rare individuals of superior type who succeed in develop- 
ing all by themselves. A young man who receives a religious 
training from his earliest childhodd and then goes on to a Catholic 
seminary may become a missionary and consecrate his whole 
life to the triumph of his faith. Another, who is born into a 
family that has a coat of arms, is educated in a military academy 
and then becomes a lieutenant in a regiment, where he finds 


comrades and superiors who are all imbued with the same sort 
of convictions, will think it his first and all-embracing duty to 
obey the orders of his sovereign all his life long and, if need be, to 
get himself killed for his king. Another, finally, who is born 
into an environment of veteran conspirators and revolutionaries, 
who has thrilled and shuddered from his earliest days at tales of, 
political persecutions and riots at the barricades, and whofce mind 
has been fed largely on the writings of Rousseau, Mazzini or 
Marx, will deem it his sacred duty to struggle tirelessly against 
oppression by organized government and will be ready to face 
prison and the gallows in the name of revolution. All that 
occurs because once the individual's environment is formed 
Catholic, ecclesiastical, bureaucratic, military, revolutionary, as 
it may be that individual, especially if he is a normal young 
man not altogether superior in intellect nor yet utterly vulgar and 
commonplace, will give to his sentimental and affective faculties 
the bent that the environment suggests to him, so that certain 
sentiments rather than others will develop in him the spirit of 
rebellion and struggle, say, rather than the spirit of passive 
obedience and self-sacrifice. This training, this dressage* as the 
French call it, succeeds better with the young than with adults, 
with enthusiastic and impassioned temperaments better than 
with cold, deliberate, calculating temperaments, with docile souls 
better than with rebellious spirits, unless the doctrine, whether 
in essence or because of special historical circumstances, makes a 
point of cultivating and intensifying the rebellious instincts. 

One condition especially is favorable, not to say indispensable, 
to this mimetic process the process by which the individual is 
assimilated to the environment. The environment must be 
closed to all influences from outside, so that no sentiments, and 
especially no ideas, will ever get into it except such as bear the 
trade-mark of the environment. No book that is on the Index 
must ever enter the seminary. Philosophy must begin and end 
with St. Thomas Aquinas. When one reads one must read 
theology and the works of the Fathers. The tales that are 
offered to the child's curiosity and hunger for romance will be 
tales of martyrs and heroic confessors. In the military academy 
one will read and talk of the exploits of great captains, of the 
glories of one's own army and one's own dynasty. Education 
and training will be such as are strictly required for learning the 


soldier's profession and for coming to prize highly the honor of 
being an officer, a gentleman, a loyal champion of king and 
country. In the revolutionary "study hour" the talk will be 
all on the victories and glories of the sinless masses, on the nefari- 
ous doings of tyrants and their hirelings, on the greed and base- 
ness of the bourgeoisie; and any book which is not written in 
accordance with the word and spirit of the masters will be merci- 
lessly proscribed. Any glimmer of mental balance, any ray of 
light from other moral and intellectual worlds, that strays into 
one of these closed environments produces doubts, falterings and 
desertions. Real history, that earnest, objective search for 
facts, the discipline which teaches us to know men and appraise 
them independently of caste, religion or political party, which 
takes account of their weaknesses and virtues for what they really 
are, which trains and exercises the faculties of observation and 
the sense of reality, must be completely banned. 

Now all that, at bottom, means nothing more or less than a 
real unbalancing of the spirit, and every environment inflicts that 
unbalancing upon the recruit who is drawn into its orbit. He 
is offered only a partial picture of life. That picture has been 
carefully revised, circumscribed and corrected, and the neophyte 
must take it as the whole and real picture of life. Certain 
sentiments are overstressed, certain others are minimized, 
and an idea of justice, honesty, duty, is presented which, if 
not fundamentally wrong, is certainly grossly incomplete. 
This thoroughgoing identification of the concept of justice 
and right with the given religious or political doctrine even a 
morally lofty one sometimes drives upright but violent souls 
to extreme fanaticism and political crimes, and may even succeed 
in extinguishing all gracious sentiment in a chivalrous people. 
According to an anecdote relating to Mohammed, a battle 
was being fought at Onein between the Prophet's followers and 
his opponents during his lifetime. In the ranks of the dissidents 
was one Doreid-Ben-Sana, the Bayard of his age and people. 
Though ninety years old, he had had himself carried to the 
battlefield on a litter. A young Islamite, one Rebiaa-ben-Rafii, 
managed to reach the spot where Doreid was and struck him 
with a well-aimed blow of his sword. But the weapon fell to 
pieces. "What a wretched sword your father gave you, boy," 
said the old hero. "My scimitar has a real temper. Take it, 


and then go and tell your mother that you have slain Doreid 
with the weapon with which he so many times defended the 
liberty and good right of the Arabs, and the honor of their 
women/' Rebiaa took Doreid's scimitar and slew him, and then 
went so far in his cynical rage as in fact to carry the message 
to his mother. Less fanatical than her son about the new 
religion, perhaps because she was a woman of the old school, 
she seems to have received him with the contempt he deserved. 1 
And yet as we have seen (3, above), perfectly balanced 
individuals, who know and appreciate all their duties and give 
to each the importance that it really has, are not likely to devote 
all their lives and energies to achieving one particular and 
definite thing. Mass exaggerations, or if one prefer, mass 
illusions, are the things that produce great events in history 
and make the world move. If a Christian could grant that 
a person could be just as virtuous without baptism, or that 
one could be without the faith and still save one's soul, the 
Christian missionaries and martyrs would have lost their enthu- 
siasm and Christianity would not have become the factor that 
it became in human history. If the promoters of a revolution 
were convinced that the status of society would not be very 
much bettered the morning after their victory, if they even 
suspected that there might be a chance of their making things 
worse, it would be hard to sweep them in droves to the barricades. 
Nations in which the critical spirit is strong, and which are 
skeptical very properly skeptical as to the practical benefits 
that any new doctrine can bring, never take the lead in great 
social movements and end by being dragged along by others 
whose enthusiasms are more readily aroused. The same is 
true of the individuals within a nation. The more sensible 
end very frequently by being swept off their feet by the more 
impulsive. Not always is it the sane who lead the mad. Often 
the mad force the sane to keep them company. 

9. But once the heroic period of a movement is over, once 
the stage of initial propaganda comes to an end, then reflection 
and self-interest claim their rights again. Enthusiasm, the 
spirit of sacrifice, the one-sided view, are enough to found religious 
and political parties. They are not enough to spread them very 

1 Hammer-Purgstall, QemSldesaal. 


far abroad and assure them of a permanent existence. So the 
method of recruiting the directing nucleus is modified or, better, 
completed. Membership among the individuals who make up 
the nucleus may still be won on purely idealistic grounds, but 
the age when idealism is everything soon passes in the great 
majority of human beings. They must then find something to 
satisfy "ambition, vanity and the craving for material pleasures. 
In a word, along with a center of ideas and sentiments, one 
must have a center of interests. 

Here again we come upon the theory of the alloy of pure 
metal with base that we formulated previously. A ruling 
nucleus that is really well organized must find a place within 
itself for all sorts of characters for the man who yearns to 
sacrifice himself for others and the man who wants to exploit 
his neighbor for his own profit; for the man who wants to look 
powerful, and the man who wants to be powerful without regard 
to looks; for the man who enjoys suffering and privations and 
the man who likes to enjoy the good things of life. When all 
these elements are fused and disciplined into a strongly knit 
system, within which every individual knows that as long as he 
remains loyal to the purposes and policy of the institution his 
inclinations will be gratified, and that if he rebels against it 
he may be morally and even materially destroyed, we get one 
of those social organisms that defy the most varied historical 
vicissitudes and endure for thousands of years. 

One thinks at once of the Catholic Church, which has been 
and still is the most robust and typical of all such organisms. 
We can only stand in rapt admiration before the complexity 
and the shrewdness of its organization. The seminary student, 
the novice, the sister of charity, the missionary, the preacher, the 
mendicant friar, the opulent abbot, the aristocratic prior, the 
rural priest, the wealthy archbishop, sometimes also the sovereign 
prince, the cardinal, who takes precedence over prime ministers, 
the pope, who was one of the most powerful of temporal rulers 
down to a few centuries ago all have their place, all have their 
raison d'etre, in the Church. Macaulay has pointed to a great 
advantage that Catholicism has over Protestantism. When 
an enthusiastic, unbalanced spirit arises inside the Protestant 
fold, he always ends by discovering some new interpretation of 
the Bible and founding one more of the many sects into which 


the Reformation has split. That same individual would be 
utilized to perfection by Catholicism and become an element of 
strength rather than of dispersion. He would don a friar's 
robe, he would become a famous preacher, and, if he had a really 
original character, a truly warm heart, and if historical cir- 
cumstances favored, he would become a St. Francis of Assisi or 
a St. Ignatius Loyola. Cogent as this example is, however, it 
shows only one of the countless ways in which the Catholic 
hierarchy manages to profit by all human aptitudes. 

It is said that the celibacy rule for the clergy goes contrary 
to nature, and certainly for some men to be deprived of a legal 
family would be a very great sacrifice. But it must be remem- 
bered that only at that price can a militia that is free of all 
private affections and stands apart from the rest of society 
be obtained; and, meantime, for characters that have an inclina- 
tion toward celibacy, that institution itself does not preclude 
certain material satisfactions. In the same way, many people 
believe that the Church has degenerated and lost strength and 
influence because it has deviated from its origins and ceased to 
be exclusively a handmaiden to the poor. But that too is a 
superficial and therefore erroneous judgment. 

Perhaps nowadays, in this age of ours, when everybody is 
talking about the disinherited classes and is interested, or 
pretends to be interested, in them, it might be becoming in the 
Supreme Pontiff to remember a little oftener that he is the servant 
of the servants of God. But except for certain fleeting periods 
in history, the Catholic Church would not have been what it 
has been, and it would not have endured so long in glory and 
prosperity, if it had always confined itself to being an institution 
for the sole benefit of the poor and had been popular only among 
beggars. Instead, it has shrewdly found ways to enjoy the 
approval of both the poor and the rich. To the poor it has 
offered alms and consolation. The rich it has won with its 
splendor and with the satisfactions it has been able to provide 
for their vanity and pride. So well chosen has this policy proved 
that if the enemies of the Church have always reproached it 
for its luxury and worldliness, they have always, if they have been 
shrewd, taken care to derive as much influence and wealth from 
it as possible. Of late, in a number of European countries, 
another institution has been devoting alHts energies to combating 


the Catholic Church. But for its own part, it does not fail to 
procure for its adherents as many personal satisfactions and 
material advantages as possible. 

10. Once the ruling nucleus is organized, the methods that it 
uses to win the masses and keep them loyal to its doctrine may 
be widely various. When no serious external obstacles, or obsta- 
cles arising from the nature of the political or religious system 
itself, are encountered, both methods of propaganda that are 
based upon the gradual persuasion and education of the masses 
and methods that involve the resort to force yield good results. 
Force, in fact, is perhaps the quickest means of establishing a 
conviction or an idea, though naturally only the stronger can 
use it. 

In the nineteenth century it became a widespread belief that 
force and persecution were powerless against doctrines that were 
founded upon truth, since the future belonged to such doctrines. 
They were regarded as equally useless against mistaken beliefs, 
since popular good sense would attend to them on its own 
account. Now, to be quite frank, it is hard to find a notion that 
involves a greater superficiality of observation and a greater 
inexperience of historical fact. That surely will be one of the 
ideas of our time that will give posterity the heartiest laughs at 
our expense. That such a theory should be preached by parties 
and sects which do not as yet hold power in their hands is easily 
understandable their instincts of self-interest and self-preserva- 
tion might lead them to profess such views. Stupidity begins 
when it is accepted by others. "Quid est veritas?" asked Pilate, 
and we can begin by asking what a true doctrine is and what a 
false doctrine is. Scientifically speaking, all religious doctrines 
are false, regardless of the number of believers they may have or 
may have had. No one, certainly, will maintain that Moham- 
medanism, for instance, which has conquered so large a portion 
of the world, is founded upon scientific truth. It is much more 
accurate to say that there are doctrines that satisfy sentiments 
which are widespread and very Deeply rooted in the human heart 
and, accordingly, have greater powers of self -propagation; and 
that there are doctrines that possess the quality mentioned to a 
lesser degree and therefore, though they may be more acceptable 
on the intellectual side, have a far more limited appeal. If 


one will, a distinction can be drawn between doctrines which 
it is to the interest of civilization and justice to have widely 
accepted, and which produce a greater sum of peace, morality 
and human welfare, and doctrines which have the opposite 
effects and which, unfortunately, are not always the ones that 
show the least capacity for self-propagation. We believe that 
social democracy threatens the future of modern civilization, yet 
we are obliged to recognize that it is based on the sentiment of 
justice, on envy and on the craving for pleasures; and those 
qualities are so widespread among men, especially in our day, 
that it would be a great mistake to deny that socialist doctrines 
have very great powers of self -propagation* 

People always point to the case of Christianity, which tri- 
umphed in spite of persecutions, and to modern liberalism, which 
overcame the tyrants who tried to repress it. But these c&ses 
merely show that when persecution is badly managed it cannot 
do everything, and that there may be cases where pure force 
does not suffice to arrest a current of ideas. The exception, 
however, cannot serve as a basis for a general principle. If a 
persecution is badly managed, tardily undertaken, laxly and 
f alteringly applied, it almost always helps to further the triumph 
of a doctrine; whereas a pitiless and energetic persecution, which 
strikes at the opposing doctrine the moment it shows its head, is 
the very best tool for combatting it. 

Christianity was not always persecuted energetically in the 
Roman Empire. It had long periods of toleration, and often- 
times the persecutions themselves were only partial they were 
confined, that is, to a few provinces. It did not definitely 
triumph, however, until an emperor who held constituted 
authority in his hands began to favor it. So too, liberal propa- 
ganda was not only hampered, it was also furthered, by govern- 
ments from the middle of the eighteenth century down to the 
French Revolution, Later on it was fought intermittently and 
never simultaneously through all the European world. It 
triumphed when the governments themselves were converted to 
it, or else were overthrown by force, internal or from abroad. 

As compared with those two doubtful examples, how many 
others there are to the precise contrary! Christianity itself in its 
early days hardly spread beyond the boundaries of the Roman 
Empire. It was not accepted in Pejrsia, not only because it 


met an obstacle in the Persian national religion but because it 
was energetically persecuted. Charlemagne planted Christianity 
among the Saxons by fire and sword and within the space of a 
generation. The evangelization of the Roman Empire took 
centuries. A few years sufficed to carry the Gospel to many 
barbarian countries, because once a king and his nobles were 
converted, the people bent their necks to baptism en masse. 
The cross was set up in that very summary manner in the various 
Anglo-Saxon dominions, in Poland, in Russia, in the Scandi- 
navian countries and in Lithuania. In the seventeenth century, 
the Christian religion was almost wiped out in Japan by a pitiless 
and therefore effective persecution. Buddhism was eradicated 
by persecution from India, its motherland; Mazdaism from the 
Persia of the Sassanids; Babism from modern Persia and the 
new religion of the Taipings from China. Thanks to persecution, 
the Albigenses disappeared from southern France, and Moham- 
medanism and Judaism from Spain and Sicily. The Reformation 
triumphed, after all, only in countries where it was supported by 
governments and, in some cases, by a victorious revolution. The 
rapid rise of Christianity itself, which is ascribed to a miracle, is 
nothing as compared with the far more rapid rise of Mohammed- 
anism. The former spread over the territory of the Roman 
Empire in three centuries. The latter in just eighty years 
expanded from Samarkand to the Pyrenees. Christianity, 
however, worked only by preaching and persuasion. The other 
showed a decided preference for the scimitar. 

The fact that all political parties and religious creeds tend to 
exert an influence upon those in power and, whenever they can, 
to monopolize power itself, is the best proof that even if they do 
not openly confess it they are convinced that to control all the 
more effective forces in a social organism, and especially in a 
bureaucratic state, is the best way to spread and maintain a 

11. As regards the other means, apart from physical force, 
which the various religions and political parties use to attract 
the masses, maintain ascendancy over them and exploit their 
credulity, we may say very largely what we said of the obligation 
that founders of doctrines, and doctrines themselves, are under 
to adapt themselves to a fairly low moral level. The 


of every political or religious system are wont carefully to list 
the faults of their adversaries in respect of moral practices, while 
claiming to be free of any reproach themselves. As a matter of 
fact all of them, with differences in degree to be sure, are tarred 
with the same brush. It is our privilege to be perfectly moral 
so long as we do not come into contact with other men, and 
especially so long as we make no pretensions to guiding them. 
But once we set out to direct their conduct, we are obliged to 
play upon all the sensitive springs of conduct that we, can touch 
in them. We have to take advantage of all their weaknesses, 
and anyone who would appeal only to their generous sentiments 
would be easily beaten by someone else who was less scrupulous. 
States are not run with prayer books, said Cosimo dei Medici, the 
father of his country. And indeed it is very hard to lead the 
masses in a given direction when one is not able as need requires 
to flatter passions, satisfy whims and appetites and inspire fear. 
Of course, if a man, however wicked he might be, tried to rule a 
state strictly on blasphemy, that is to say by relying exclusively 
upon material interests and the baser sentiments, he would be 
just as ingenuous as the man who tried to govern with prayer 
books alone. If old Cosimo were alive he would not hesitate to 
call such a man a fool. By a sufficient display of energy, self- 
sacrifice, restless activity, patience and, where necessary, superior 
technical skill, the man at the helm of a state may feel less in 
need of exploiting the baser sentiments, and may place great 
dependence upon the generous and virtuous instincts of his 
subjects. But the head of a state is only a man, and so does not 
always possess the qualities mentioned in any eminent degree. 

One notes, on close inspection, that the artifices that are used 
to wheedle crowds are more or less alike at all times and in all 
places, since the problem is always to take advantage of the same 
human weaknesses. All religions, even those that deny the 
supernatural, have their special declamatory style, and their 
sermons, lectures or speeches are delivered in it. All of them 
have their rituals and their displays of pomp to strike the fancy. 
Some parade with lighted candles and chant litanies. Others 
march behind red banners to the tune of the "Marseillaise" or 
the "International." 

Religions and political parties alike take advantage of the vain 
and create ranks, offices and distinctions for them. Alike thev 


exploit the simple, the ingenuous and those eager for self -sacrifice 
or for publicity, in order to create the martyr* Once the martyr 
has been found, they take care to keep his cult alive, since that 
serves very effectively to strengthen faith. Once upon a time 
it was a practice in monasteries to choose the silliest of the friars 
and accredit him as a saint, even ascribing miracles to him, all 
with a view to enhancing the renown of the brotherhood and 
hence its wealth and influence, which were straightway turned 
to good account by those who had directed the staging of the 
farce. In our day sects and political parties are highly skilled 
at creating the superman, the legendary hero, the "man of 
unquestioned honesty," who serves, in his turn, to maintain the 
luster of the gang and brings in wealth and power for the sly ones 
to use. When "my uncle the Count" reminded the Capuchin 
Father Provincial of the scalawag tricks that Father Christopher 
had played in his youth, the Father Provincial promptly replied 
that it was to the glory of the cloth that one who had caused 
scandal in the world should become quite a different person on 
taking the cloth. 1 A typically monkish reply, without doubt! 
But worse than monks are political parties and sects which 
conceal and excuse the worst rascalities of their adherents so 
long as they are loyal to the colors. For them, whoever takes 
the cloth becomes on the spot a quite different person. 

The complex of dissimulation, artifice and stratagem that 
commonly goes by the name of Jesuitism is not peculiar to the 
followers of Loyola. Perhaps the Jesuits had the honor of lend- 
ing it their name because they systematized the thing, perfected 
it and in a way made an art of it; but, after all, the Jesuitical 
spirit is just a form of the sectarian spirit carried to its ultimate 
implications. All religions and all parties which have set out 
with more or less sincere enthusiasms to lead men toward 
specified goals have, with more or less moderation, used methods 
similar to the methods of the Jesuits, and sometimes worse ones. 
The principle that the end justifies the means has been adopted 
for the triumph of all causes and all social and poEtical systems. 
All parties, aU cults, make it a ruje to judge only that man great 
who fights in the party ranks all other men are idiots or rogues. 
When they can do nothing more positive, they maintain obstinate 
silence on the merits of outsiders. All sectarians practice the 

1 Manzoni, / promessi sposi, chap. XIX 

}11] PROPAGANDA 195 

art of holding to the form and letter of their word while violating 
it in substance. All of them know how to distort a recital of 
facts to their advantage. All of them know how to find simple, 
timid souls and how to capture their loyalty and win their 
assistance and their contributions for "the cause" and for the 
persons who represent it ahd are its apostles. Unfortunately, 
therefore, even if the Jesuits were to disappear, Jesuitism would 
remain, and we have only to look about us to be convinced of that 

The more blatantly unscropuhlits means are oftenest used in 
associations that are in conflict with constituted authorities and 
are more or less secret in character. Among the instructions 
that Bakunin sent out to his followers, we find this one: 

To reach the gloomy city of Pandestruction, the first requisite is a 
series of assassinations, a series of bold and perhaps crazy enterprises 
which will strike terror to the hearts of the powerful and dazzle the 
populace into believing in the triumph of the revolution. 

Couched in cruder language, Bakunin's maxims remind one of 
the "Be agitated and agitate" of another great revolutionist. 
In the same pamphlet, Principles of Revolution, Bakunin goes on: 

Without recognizing any activity other than destruction, we declare 
that the forms in which that activity should manifest itself are variety 
itself: poison, dagger, knout. Revolution sanctifies everything without 

Another Russian, who came to hold principles very different 
from Bakunin's, describes in a novel the methods by which the 
wily attract the ingenuous into revolutionary societies. Says 
Dostoevski : 

First of all the bureaucratic bait is necessary. There have to be 
titles presidents, secretaries, and so on. Then comes sentimentality, 
which is a most effective agent, and then regard for what people may 
think. Fear of being alone in one's opinion and fear of passing for an 
antiliberal are things that have tremendous power. 

Then [adds another interlocutor in the dialogue] there is the trick of 
embroiling unsuspecting neophytes in a crime* Five comrades murder 
a sixth on the pretext that he is a spy. . . . Murder cements every- 
thing. There is no escape even for the most reluctant. 1 

1 The Possessed, part II, chap. VI (pp. 302-393). 


12, The day can hardly come when conflicts and rivalries 
among different religions and parties will end. That would be 
possible only if all the civilized world were to belong to a single 
social type, to a single religion, and if there were to be an end to 
disagreements as to the ways in which social betterment can be 
attained. Now a number of German writers believe that 
political parties are necessary as corresponding to the various 
tendencies that manifest themselves at different ages in the 
human being. Without accepting that theory we can readily 
observe that any new religion, any new political dogma that 
chances to win some measure of success, straightway breaks up 
into sects, under pressure of the instinct for disputing and 
quarreling; and these sects fight one another with the same zest 
and the same bitterness that the parent faith formerly displayed 
against rival religions and parties. The numerous schisms and 
heresies that are forever sprouting in Christianity, Moham- 
medanism and the many other religions, the divisions that keep 
emerging in our day within social democracy, which is still far 
from a triumph that it may never attain, prove how extra- 
ordinarily hard it is to achieve that unified and universal moral 
and intellectual world to which so many people aspire. 

Even granting that such a world could be realized, it does not 
seem to us a desirable sort of world. So far in history, freedom 
to think, to observe, to judge men and things serenely and dis- 
passionately, has been possible always be it understood, for a 
few individuals only in those societies in which numbers of 
different religious and political currents have been struggling for 
dominion. That same condition, as we have already seen 
(chap. V, 9), is almost indispensable for the attainment of 
what is commonly called "political liberty" in other words, 
the highest possible degree of justice in the relations between 
governors and governed that is compatible with our imperfect 
human nature. In fact, in societies where choice among a 
number of religious and political currents has ceased to be possible 
because one such current has succeeded in gaining exclusive 
control, the isolated and original thinker has to be silent, and 
moral and intellectual monopoly is infallibly associated with 
political monopoly, to the advantage of a caste or of a very few 
social forces. 


The modern Masonic doctrine in Europe is based on the belief 
that man tends to become physically, intellectually and morally 
saner and nobler, and that only ignorance and superstition, which 
have generated the dogmatic religons, have prevented him from 
following that road, which is his natural road, and driven him to 
persecutions, massacres and fratricidal strife. Such a view does 
not seem to us tenable. The revealed religions* which many 
people are now calling superstitions, were not taught to man by 
an extrahuman being. They were created by men themselves, 
and they have always found their nourishment and their raison 
d*tre in human nature. They are only in part, and sometimes 
in very small part, responsible for struggles, massacres and 
persecutions. These are due more often to the passions of men 
than to the dogmas that religions teach. In fact, in the light of 
impartial history, the excuse of "the times," and of religious and 
political fanaticism, takes away only a small fraction of individual 
responsibility for outrages of every sort. Whatever the times 
may be, in every religion, in every doctrine, each of us can find 
and does find the tendency that best suits his character and 
temperament. Mohammedanism did not prevent Saladin from 
being a humane and generous soul even in dealing with infidels, 
any more than Christianity mitigated the ferocity of Richard the 
Lionhearted. That king, so celebrated for his chivalry, was 
responsible for the massacre of three thousand Mohammedan 
prisoners, taken after the strenuous defense at Acre, and it was 
due to the generosity of Saladin that that terrible example was 
not followed on a large scale by the Mohammedan army. The 
same religion that gave the world Simon de Monfort and Tor- 
quemada also gave the world St. Francis of Assisi and St. Theresa. 
The year 1793 saw the lives and feats of Marat, Robespierre and 
Carrier (the Conventionist Carrier, who had the children of the 
Vendeans drowned by the thousand at Nantes). But that same 
year knew Bonchamps, the leader of the loyalists in the Vendee, 
who, as he lay wounded on his deathbed, pleaded for the lives of 
four thousand republican prisoners whom his fellow soldiers, 
were intending to shoot down and won their release. As a 
matter of fact, in the course of the past century the bitterest 
struggles have been fought, the worst persecutions and massacres 
have been perpetrated, in the name of doctrines which have no 


basis at all in the supernatural, and which proclaim the liberty, 
equality and fraternity of all men. 

The feeling that springs spontaneously from an unprejudiced 
judgment of the history of humanity is compassion for the con- 
tradictory qualities of this poor human race of ours, so rich in 
abnegation, so ready at times for personal sacrifice, yet whose 
every attempt, whether more or less successful or not at all 
successful, to attain moral and material betterment, is coupled 
with an unleashing of hates, rancors and the basest passions. A 
tragic destiny is that of men! Aspiring ever to pursue and 
achieve what they think is the good, they ever find pretexts for 
slaughtering and persecuting each other. Once they slaughtered 
and persecuted over the interpretation of a dogma, or of a 
passage in the Bible. Then they slaughtered and persecuted in 
order to inaugurate the kingdom of liberty, equality and fra- 
ternity. Today they are slaughtering and persecuting and 
fiendishly torturing each other in the name of other creeds. 
Perhaps tomorrow they will slaughter and torment each other 
in an effort to banish the last trace of violence and injustice from 
the earth! 


1. We have just examined the ways in which the currents of 
ideas, sentiments, passions, that contribute to changing trends 
in human societies arise and assert themselves. But it is also 
observable that at times these currents gain the upper hand by 
force, replacing the individuals who are in power with other 
individuals who represent new principles. In societies that have 
attained a fairly complicated type of organization, such changes 
may occur on the initiative, or at any rate with the consent, of 
the normally ruling class, which, in ordinary cases, holds exclu- 
sive possession of arms. Then again they may be brought about 
by other social elements and forces, which succeed in defeating 
the previously ruling element. Then a phenomenon that has 
been rather frequent in the history of our time appears, the thing 
that is commonly called "revolution." 

Upheavals in small states, where a bureaucratic organization 
does not exist or is essentially embryonic, bear only a superficial 
resemblance to upheavals in large states, and especially states 
like our modern nations. In classical antiquity when a tyrant 
became master of a city, or an oligarchy superseded a democracy 
and often, too, when a tyranny or oligarchy was overthrown 
it was always at bottom a question of one clique, more or less 
numerous, superseding another clique in the management of the 
commonwealth. When the Greek state was functioning nor- 
mally the whole governing class, in other words everybody who 
was not a slave or a resident alien or a manual laborer, had a 
share in political life. When a tyrannical or oligarchical regime 
was established, or even a degenerate form of democracy that 
was called "ochlocracy," one element in the governing class 
usurped all power to the detriment of other elements, which 
were in part killed off, in part despoiled of their property and 
exiled. The victors, in their turn, had to fear reprisals from the 
vanquished, for if the latter ever succeeded in getting the upper 



hand again, they treated their former despoilers in the same 

The struggle was therefore conducted on a basis of force and 
cunning, with murders and surprises, and the parties to the 
struggle often sought the support of outsiders or of some few 
mercenaries. Once victorious, they usually seized the citadel and 
deprived all who were not of their faction of their weapons. 
Arms were rather costly in those days and could not easily be 
replaced. On rare occasions, as was the case with the coup d'6tat 
of Pelopidas and Epaminondas at Thebes, and that of Timoleon 
at Syracuse, someone would use a victory to establish a less 
sanguinary and less violent regime. But even then such a 
beneficent innovation would last only as long as the personal 
influence or the life of its author lasted. Sometimes, again, the 
usurping faction would succeed in keeping itself in power for 
more than a generation. That was the case with Pisistratus 
and his sons, and with the two Dionysiuses, tyrants of Syracuse. 
Agathocles, one of the worst tyrants known to Greek history, died 
an old man, and he had seized power as a youth. Poison alone 
seemed able to cut short his life and his rule. 

The usages of the ancient Hellenic state were reborn in the 
Italian communes of the Middle Ages, where the political 
organization was very much like that of classic Greece. A 
faction with some nobleman at its head would seize power and 
banish all its enemies or murder them. In either case their 
property would be confiscated. Often one had to crush if one 
did not care to be crushed. As a rule the two richest and 
strongest families of the commune would contend armata manu 
for supremacy. They too, like the heads of the old Greek 
parties, used outside aid and mercenaries whenever they could. 
So the Torriani and the Visconti disputed possession of Milan, 
and the scene, with few variations, was repeated in smaller 
Italian cities. Peaces, truces, tearful reconciliations, religious 
repentances, were sometimes engineered by monks and honest 
citizens. Dino Compagni in his Chronicles 1 relates how he 
tried, and apparently with success, to reconcile the heads of the 
White and Black parties in Florence, bringing them together 
in church and inducing them, with appropriate words, to embrace 
each other. But such maneuvers, however well-intentioned, 
8 (p. 00). 


had only momentary effects. Worse still, they were often mere 
stratagems by which the bigger rascals would get the better of 
the smaller ones by striking at them when they were off their 
guard and unable to defend themselves. 

With the advent of the Renaissance, ways became less warlike 
and open conflict rarer, but perfidy and betrayal grew still more 
subtle, and long practice lifted them almost to the rank of 
sciences. In some cities so-called "civilized manners" prevailed. 
In Florence, for instance, the powerful drew together by kinship 
and maintained a certain balanc^, keeping their predominance 
by " stuffing the purses* 5 the equivalent of modern European 
election lists with the names of their henchmen. That policy 
was followed, as long as Niccolo d'Uzzano was alive, by the 
mercantile oligarchy that had the Albizzi at its head. It was 
the policy also of Cosimo dei Medici and his colleagues, though 
Cosimo was adept at using other devices on occasion. 1 Else- 
where, in Bomagna and Umbria, wars that were mere struggles 
between gangs and gangsters dragged on until after 1500. 
In Perugia, the Oddi were driven out by the Baglioni, but came 
back by surprise one night. The Baglioni fought in their 
shirttails and came off best. Victorious, they turned and 
exterminated each other. Oliverotto da Fermo, at the head of a 
band of cutthroats, won lordship over his city by murdering 
his uncle and other notables of the town, who had invited him 
to a friendly dinner. 

In the civil conflicts that took place in the Greek cities and in 
the Italian communes, moderation and humaneness were not 
useful traits of character. Power went as a rule to the quickest 
and the slyest, to those who could dissemble best and had the 
toughest consciences. Chance, too, played a great part in the 
successful outcome of an undertaking, and many romantic 
episodes are recounted in this connection. A barking dog, 
a drinking bout an hour earlier or an hour later, a letter read 
in time or left unopened till the next day, determined the out* 
come of a surprise, as when Epaminondas and Pelopidas gained 
control of Thebes, and Aratus of Sicyon. It is also interesting 
to note that neither the civil strife that tormented the Greek 
states nor the factional wars that kept the Italian communes 
in turmoil made any perceptible contributions to civilization. 
1 Capponi, Storia deUa EepubUica di F4renze, vol. II, pp. 108, 38$. 


Rulers changed, but whoever triumphed, society always kept 
the same social physiognomy. The great phenomena in history 
the rise of Hellenic science and art, the emancipation of 
serfs, the rebirth of arts and letters at the end of the Middle 
Ages developed independently of the bloody struggles that 
tortured Greece and Italy, At the most, these civil conflicts 
helped to retard the maturing of such movements, functioning 
in that respect like foreign wars, famines or pestilences, which 
impoverish and prostrate a country and so rarely fail to hamper 
its economic and intellectual progress. 

A political science based exclusively upon observation of 
the historical periods to which we have referred could not help 
being incomplete and superficial, and those are the traits of the 
method embodied in Machiavelli's celebrated essay on The 
Prince. That work has been too much reviled and too much 
praised. In any event, whether in praise or in blame, too great 
an importance has been attached to it. If some observer in 
our day were to note the ways in which private fortunes are 
made and unmade on our stock exchanges, in our corporations 
or in our banks, he could easily write a book on the art of getting 
rich that would probably offer very sound advice on how to 
look like an honest man and yet not be one, and on how to thieve 
and rob and still keep clear of the criminal courts. Such a 
book would, one may be sure, make the precepts that the Floren- 
tine Secretary lays down in his essay look like jests for innocent 
babes. Even so, as we have already suggested (chap. I, 1), 
such a work would have nothing to do with economic science, 
just as the art of attaining power and holding it -has nothing to 
do with political science. That such things have no bearing 
on science, in other words on the discovery of the great psy- 
chological laws that function in all the large human societies, is 
easily proved. Machiavelli's suggestions might have served 
Louis the Moor or Cesare Borgia, just as they might have served 
Dionysius, Agathocles and Jason of Pherae. They might 
have served the deys of Algiers, or Ali Tebelen, or even Mehemet 
Ali when he exclaimed that Egypt was up for sale on the auction 
block to the man who made the last bid in dollars or saber cuts. 

But one can not be sure that the art taught by Machiavelli 
has any practical value in itself, or that even the statesmen 
mentioned would have derived any great profit from it. When 


the question of winning power and holding it is involved, knowl- 
edge of the general laws that may be deduced from a study of 
human psychology, or of the constant tendencies that are 
revealed by the human masses, does not help very much. The 
important thing at such times is quickly and readily to under- 
stand one's own abilities and the abilities of others, and to make 
good use of them. Such things vary so widely that they cannot 
be covered by general rules. A piece of advice may be good for 
one man, if he knows how to take proper advantage of it, and 
very bad for another. The same person acting in the same way 
in two apparently identical cases will fare now well now badly 
according to the different people with whom he happens to be 
dealing. Guicciardini well says: "Theory is one thing and prac-, 
tice another, and many understand the former without being 
able to put it into operation. Nor does it help much to reason by 
examples, since every little change in the particular case brings 
on great changes in the consequences/' 1 Certainly Machiavelli's 
precepts would have been of little use to the statesmen of the 
Roman Republic, and they would serve the statesmen of modern 
Europe very badly indeed. However, to avoid any misunder- 
standing, we had better agree that rectitude, self-sacrifice, good 
faith, have never been anywhere or at any time the qualities 
that best serve for attaining power and holding it nor is the 
situation any different today. 

It need hardly be pointed out that in modern states, which 
are far larger in size than the ancient and have their complicated 
organization, their bureaucracies, their standing armies, no 
revolution can be achieved with a dagger thrust in somebody's 
back, with a well-laid ambush, with a well-planned attack 
on a public building. When modern revolutionists take their 
cue from the practices of their ancient predecessors, they fall 
into gross errors of anachronism. Classical reminiscences, 
to be sure, are not wholly useless. They fire the souls of the 
youthful and serve to maintain a revolutionary atmosphere. 
They were cleverly exploited in that sense away back in the 
Renaissance, for instance, in the preparation of the conspiracy of 
1476, which encompassed the assassination of Galeazzo Sforza, 

To kill a king may not be enough to overturn a government 
today, but political assassinations still help, sometimes, to inspire 

1 Penswri> no. 85. 


leaders of a governing class with hesitation or terror and so make 
them less energetic in action. Almost all political assassins 
lose their lives in the execution of their enterprises. Many 
of them become martyrs to an idea in consequence, and the 
veneration that is eventually paid them is one of the less honor- 
able but not least effective means of keeping revolutionary 
propaganda alive. 

. Of all the ancient states, republican Rome was the one in 
which juridical defense was most solidly established, ancf in 
which civil strife was, therefore, least bloody and least frequent. 
During the protracted conflicts between patricians and plebeians 
there was no lack of disorders in the Forum. Sometimes 
daggers were drawn and, on a few occasions, gangs of trouble- 
makers managed to seize the Capitol by surprise attacks. But 
for whole centuries there was no case of a faction violently 
usurping power and massacring or exiling its adversaries. At 
the time when the Gracchi were slain, the legal procedure of 
voting was twice interrupted by bloodshed; and later on, when 
the vote of the comitia to entrust command of the war in Asia to 
Sulla was annulled by violence, Sulla set a new example by 
entering the city at the head of an army. The legions had 
long been fighting outside of Italy, and so had become real 
standing armies suitable for acting as blind instruments in 
the hands of their generals. The civil wars that ensued were 
fought between regular armies, and the leader of the last army 
to win such a war was Octavianus Augustus. He changed the 
form of government permanently and founded a bureaucratic 
military monarchy. From then on, the regular army arrogated 
to itself the right to change not the form of the government 
but the head of the government. 

In feudal Europe civil conflicts and revolutions assumed, 
as they quite regularly assume among peoples that are feudally 
organized, the character of wars between factions of barons or 
local leaders. So in Germany, on the election of a new emperor, 
the barons and the free cities would often divide into two parties 
that fought each other back and forth, each following the 
sovereign of its choice and pronouncing him legitimate. Else- 
where, as in Sicily in the period of the conflicts between the Latin 
and Catalan nobilities, the contending parties disputed possession 


of the physical person of the king, or of the prince or princess 
who was heir to the crown. Such possession enabled a faction 
to take shelter under the wing of legitimacy and proclaim its 
adversaries rebels and traitors. For the same reasons, the 
Burgundians and Armagnacs in France fought for possession 
of the person of king or dauphin (see below, 6). At other 
times the barons would align themselves under the standards of 
two rival dynasties, as happened in England during the Wars of 
the Roses. Whenever the whole of a nobility, or virtually the 
whole, rose unanimously against a sovereign, the revolution was 
soon complete, the king being easily overthrown and reduced to 
impotence. This latter case was not rare in any of the old feudal 
regimes. It was especially frequent in Scotland. 

As in civil conflicts in the Greek states and the Italian com- 
munes, so in these domestic conflicts between the barons of a 
given kingdom, the victorious party was wont, whenever possible, 
to dispossess the vanquished of their fiefs and distribute these 
among its own followers. Assassination and especially poisoning 
were fairly rare; but if the vanquished did not fall on the field 
of battle the executioner's ax was often waiting for them. All 
the noble family of the Chiaramonti perished on the scaffold 
at Palermo; and the flower of the old English nobility was 
exterminated on the scaffold, or on the field of battle, during 
the successive victories and defeats of the two houses of York 
and Lancaster. In France a number of Armagnacs were assassi- 
nated. Others were lynched by Paris mobs. In his turn, John 
the Fearless, Duke of Burgundy, died by an assassin's hand. 

As regards Mohammedan countries, one may ignore mere 
court intrigues that occasion the deposition and death of one 
sultan and the elevation of another. But if revolutions proper 
show a certain resemblance to the conflicts that were waged 
between cliques of nobles in feudal Europe, they also show 
traces, often, of a movement which we would nowadays call 
socialistic, though it usually is obscured and disguised as 
religious reform. The efforts of many Levantine and African 
sovereigns to surround themselves with regular troops serving 
for pay have proved fairly successful at one time or another. 
All the same, among most Mussulman peoples, especially among 
peoples that do not take to cities but lead pastoral rather than 
agricultural lives, a very ancient tribal organization has been 


preserved, and uprisings of tribal chieftains, like those of the 
European barons, in support of some pretender to a throne or of 
the claims of some new dynasty have always remained possi- 
bilities. Among the tribes themselves, furthermore, some inno- 
vator is always coming along to preach a religious reform and 
claim to be leading Islam back to its pristine purity. If success 
smiles upon the agitation of such a person, we get a religious and 
social revolution. 

In Near Eastern countries, and in North Africa too, there 
is not that class struggle between capitalists and proletarians 
that is characteristic of modern Europe, but for hundreds and 
hundreds of years an undercurrent of antagonism has persisted 
between the poor brigand tribes of the deserts and the mountain 
regions and the richer tribes that inhabit the fertile plains. 
Hostility is still more overt between the farmers and the wealthy, 
unwarlike populations of the coastal cities. It can hardly 
be said that Islam offers no pretext for revivals of the old equali- 
tarian spirit, the old contempt for riches and enjoyments, that 
we find in a number of the early Hebrew prophets in Isaiah, 
for instance, and in Amos, the herdsman of Tekoa. If Moham- 
med did not say that it was easier for a camel to pass through the 
eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of 
heaven, he nonetheless loved simple ways, and among the joys 
of this world he prized only women and perfumes. Once eighty 
horsemen of the Beni-Kende, a tribe recently converted to 
Islamism, presented themselves before him as ambassadors, 
in magnificent array and clad in silken garments. Straightway 
he reminded them that the new religion did not admit of luxury, 
and they at once tore their rich raiment to shreds. 1 Omar, the 
second caliph, conquered many lands and endless treasure, but 
he ate frugally, sitting on the ground, and when he died his 
personal estate consisted of one tunic and three drachmas. 

That makes it easier to understand how the old Arab dynasties 
in North Africa, during the eleventh and twelfth centuries, 
came to be conquered and dispossessed by the religious reform 
of the Almoravides, who in their turn were overthrown by a 
similar movement the Reform of the Almohades, so-called. 
In both cases the desert and mountain tribes coaxed the reform 
doctrines along and used them to get the better of the wealthier 

1 Hammer-Purgstall, Gemaldesaal. 


and more cultured populations of the Tell, or zone along the 
sea. Like motives may readily be detected in the growth of the 
Wahabi sect in Arabia and in the later fortunes of Mahdism 
along the upper Nile. In the old days, once the Saracens were 
masters of the rich lands of Syria, Persia and Egypt, they forgot 
the frugality of the Sahabah (the men who had known the 
Prophet), and some of the latter, in their old age, had occasion 
to be scandalized at the luxury displayed by the Ommiad caliphs 
of Damascus, who were to be far outdone in that respect by the 
Abbassid caliphs of Bagdad. It goes without saying, therefore, 
that in the Almoravides and Almohades, too, human nature soon 
triumphed over sectarian ardors. Once they found themselves 
in the palaces of Fez and C6rdoba, they forgot the simple life 
that they had preached and practiced on the tablelands beyond 
Atlas, and adopted the refinements of Oriental ease. If the 
Wahabi, the Mahdist and other Mohammedan reforms did not 
achieve the same results, that was because they enjoyed success 
in far smaller measure. 

3. Revolutions and violent upheavals have not been rare in 
China. However, it is hard for us to divine the social causes of 
the very ancient ones. We know that the Celestial Empire 
passed through a number of different economic and political 
phases, and that it changed from the feudal state that it once 
was into a bureaucratic state. The motives and forms of its 
rebellions must certainly have changed in accordance with those 

Of this much one can be sure. Whenever a dynasty had greatly 
declined in efficiency, when corruption of public officials over- 
stepped the limits of endurance, when weak princes allowed 
women and eunuchs to rule in their places or wasted too much 
time in quest of the elixir of eternal life, some unruly governor, 
or some intrepid adventurer, would place himself at the head of 
insurgent bands, defeat the government troops and then, abetted 
by the general discontent, dispossess the old dynasty and found 
a new one. The new dynasty would show an improved energy 
for some generations. Then it too would weaken, and the old 
abuses would come to the fore again. 

Invasions of northern barbarians and Tibetans often provoked 
and facilitated such overturns, and, in fact, the whole country 


fell eventually under the dominion of the Mongols. Then gradu- 
ally a powerful patriotic reaction ripened. (Such outbursts of 
national spirit are not rare among peoples that possess ancient 
civilizations. We have traces of one in ancient Egypt on the 
expulsion of the Hyksos. Almost within our memory came the 
uprisings in Greece and Italy in the nineteenth century.) Toward 
the close of the fourteenth century of our era a group of enthusi- 
astic and energetic men raised the standard of revolt against the 
Mongols, with a bonze, one Hung Wu, at their head. It is note- 
worthy that the bonzes, or Buddhist monks, have always been 
recruited largely from the lowest classes of the Chinese population 
and, in our day at least, are held in very low esteem in all China. 
On the crest of a wave of national feeling this movement swept 
the country. The barbarians were driven beyond the Great 
Wall and Hung Wu became the founder of the Ming dynasty, 
which governed the empire down to the middle of the seventeenth 
century (1644). China meantime became an almost completely 
bureaucratized state. 

During the nineteenth century the country had another revo- 
lution. Though it did not succeed, it is worthy of mention in 
view of the analogy it offers to the revolution that had set a 
bonze, Hung Wu, on the throne. A war with the English, ending 
in the disadvantageous treaties of 1842 and 1844, had produced 
great disorder throughout the empire. In consequence, a revolt 
against the foreign dynasty of Manchu Tatars broke out in the 
neighborhood of Nanking, the ancient Ming capital and the 
heart of Chinese nationalism. The platform of the revolution 
called for the expulsion of foreigners and the establishment of a 
new religion, in which dogmas of Christianity were curiously 
intermingled with, and adapted to, the philosophical ideas and 
popular superstitions of the Chinese. A schoolmaster, an edu- 
cated man of very low birth, a sort of fish out of water answering 
to the name of Hung Hsiu Ch'iian, was the supreme chief of the 
rebellion. A group of energetic, intelligent, ambitious men 
gathered about him, financed his agitation and helped him both 
in formulating his religious and philosophical creed and in direct- 
ing his first acts of insurrection. 

The Chinese bureaucratic machine had been profoundly shaken 
at the time by the setbacks it had received and by the inferiority 
that it had exhibited with respect to the Europeans, Supported 


by public discontent, the rebels won rapid success at first. Enter- 
ing Nanking in 1853, they proclaimed the T'ai P'ing, or Era of 
Universal Peace, in that city the rebels, in fact, were commonly 
known to Europeans as "Taipings," At the same time Hung 
Hsiu Ch'tian, who certainly was no ordinary man, was exalted 
to the rank of Celestial Emperor and became head of a new 
national dynasty. But in China too the brute force tb^t is 
required for a successful revolution was to be found largely in the 
dregs of society. The rank and file of the "army of universal 
peace" had to be recruited largely frdm among deserters, fugitives 
from justice and, in general, from the mass of vagrants and vaga- 
bonds who abound in all great cities, in China as well as in Europe. 
Soon the leaders found themselves powerless to control the out- 
rages of their followers. The Taiping bands carried pillage, 
desolation and slaughter everywhere. The insurrection lost all 
sight of its political idea. Lust for loot and blood gained the 
upper hand, and territories that fell into the hands of the rebels 
experienced all the horrors of real anarchy. 

A new war with England and France broke out in 1860, and 
there was a Mohammedan revolt in the northwest. Those 
misfortunes prolonged the anarchy in China for several years. 
But eventually the Chinese government was freed in some meas- 
ure of its embarrassments and was able to dispatch forces in 
considerable numbers against the rebels. By that time the latter 
had lost all public sympathy and otherwise found themselves in 
a bad way. The early associates of Hung Hsiu Ch'iian, the only 
men connected with the revolt who had had a truly political 
outlook and broad views, had almost all lost their lives. Nanking 
was invested and Hung Hsiu Ch'tian, surrounded by a haphazard 
group of men who stood as ready to betray him as to rob others, 
lost all hope of offering further resistance. He took poison in 
his palace on June 30, 1864. Masters of Nanking, the imperial 
troops beheaded the young son of the dead rebel leader twenty 
days later and stifled in blood and atrocious cruelty a revolt that 
had long held on only by cruelty and terror. 1 

In the Celestial Empire, as normally happens in the Moham- 
medan countries and to a large extent in Europe, the political 
idea or ideal on which the revolution had rested at the start 

1 For particulars of the Taiping insurrection, see Eousset, A travers la Chine, 
chap. XIX. 


became clouded and was almost entirely lost from view the 
moment the period of action and realization came. 

Another point of contact between the Taiping insurrection and 
insurrections in Europe may be seen in the fact that in China too 
the ground for the revolutionary movement was prepared by 
secret societies. The influence of clandestine organizations in 
fomenting popular discontents and inspiring hatred of the for- 
eigner is apparent in that country as early as the eighteenth 
century. So in our day, the revolution that overthrew the 
Manchu dynasty was due in large part to the work of secret 
societies. These organizations, at any rate, survived the Taiping 
revolt which they had helped to stir up, and to them seem to 
have been due not a few murders of Europeans, which were com- 
mitted in the intent of entangling the Peking government with 
one or another of the Western powers. As in countries that are 
much better known to us than China, the secret societies were 
joined now by ardent and disinterested patriots, now by criminals 
who used the bond of association to secure impunity in their 
crimes, and sometimes even by public officials who hoped to 
further their careers. 

4. Noteworthy among European revolutions is the type in 
which a subject people rises against its oppressors. Of that 
type were the insurrections in Sweden against Denmark (under 
Gustavus Vasa), in Holland against Spain, in Spain against 
Prance (in 1808), in Greece against Turkey, in Italy against 
Austria, in Poland against Russia. Such insurrections are more 
like foreign wars, or wars between peoples, than civil wars, and 
they are the ones that are most likely to succeed. In our day, 
however, in view of our huge standing armies, if an insurgent 
people is to have any great probability of victory it must already 
enjoy a sort of semi-independence, so that a portion of its popu- 
lation at least is well organized in a military sense. 

In Spain, in 1868, in addition to the famous guerrillas, the 
regular armies took an active part in support of the insurrection. 
In Italy, in 1848, the army of Piedmont played the principal 
role in the war against the foreigner; and the regular troops of 
Piedmont, in concert with their French allies, dealt the blows 
that decided the fate of the peninsula in 1859. In 1830 and 1831 
again, Poland was able to hold out for almost a year against the 


Russian colossus because a Polish army had previously been 
maintained as a part of the Russian army and it espoused the 
cause of nationalism. The insurrection of 1868-1864 was con- 
ducted by mere bands of irregulars. It had less significant 
results and was suppressed with much less effort. 

To the same type of revolution belongs the American War of 
Independence against England. The American colonies enjoyed 
very broad privileges of autonomy even before 1776. When 
they joined in a federation and proclaimed their independence 
they had little difficulty in organizing an armed force, partly 
from the old militias of the various colonies and partly from 
volunteers. They were therefore able to hold off the troops 
that were sent by the mother country to subjugate them, until 
France intervened. Then they succeeded in emancipating 

When the Great Rebellion broke out, in 1642, England was 
not yet a bureaucratic state, and Charles I had only a small 
standing army at his command. In the beginning Parliament 
had the militias of the shires on its side. The rural nobility 
the Cavaliers bore the main brunt of the conflict on the side of 
the king. The Cavaliers were far better practiced in the military 
arts and won easy victories at first; but when Cromwell was able to 
organize, first a regiment, and then an army of permanent dis- 
ciplined troops, conflict was no longer possible. At the head of 
his army the Lord Protector not only defeated the Cavaliers but 
subdued Scotland and Ireland, put the Levelers in their places, 
sent the Long Parliament home with scant ceremony and became 
absolute master of the British Isles. The English are great 
lovers of constitutional privileges. Remembrance of these doings 
made them long distrustful of standing armies. Charles II and 
James II were never provided with means for maintaining 
permanent military forces, and every effort was made to keep the 
county militias in good training. William of Orange himself, 
greatly to his regret, was obliged to send back to the Continent 
the old Dutch regiments which he had led in overthrowing the 
last of the Stuarts. 

5. Another social phenomenon of importance is the rural or 
peasant rebellion. Such uprisings were fairly frequent in Europe 
during the second half of the eighteenth century and the first 


half of the nineteenth. They broke out in a number of widely 
separated communities. One remembers the revolts that took 
place in Russia early in the reign of Catherine II* on the pretext 
of restoring to the throne one individual or another who tried to 
impersonate the murdered czar, Peter III. To the Spanish 
rebellion of 1808, in which the entire nation took part, we have 
several times referred. Then there was the great insurrection in 
the Vend6e in 1793, the Neapolitan rebellion of 1799 against the 
Parthenopean Republic, the Calabrian revolt against Joseph 
Bonaparte in 1808, and the one in the Tyrol in 1809. There 
have been a number of Carlist insurrections in Biscay and 

Of the rural revolt that was captained by Monmouth in the 
day of James II, just before the "Glorious Revolution," Macaulay 
observes that that uprising was made possible because at that 
time every English yeoman was something of a soldier. In fact, 
a serious insurrection by peasants is possible only in places where 
they have had a certain habit of handling arms, or at least where 
hunting or brigandage, or family and neighborhood feuds, 
have kept people familiar with the sound of gunfire. 

Of the Russian movements mentioned, the most important 
was led by Pugatchev. On the whole those revolts rested on the 
hatred that peasants, Cossacks and all the plainsmen who were 
used to the freedom of the steppes felt for bureaucratic centrali- 
zation, which was at that time gaining ground, and for the 
German employees of the government, who were looked upon as 
originally responsible for the bureaucracy's interference in the 
daily lives of the Russians. However, the revolting peasants 
were what we would now call "loyalist/* They maintained 
that the true czar was in their camp, and that the czarina who 
held the palaces at St. Petersburg and Moscow was a usurper. 
Sentiments that are conservative and at the same time opposed - 
to excessive interference by the state are characteristic, in general, 
of the peasant insurrection, which as a rule occurs when some 
triumphing party of innovation seeks to require new sacrifices in 
the name of civilization or progress. The Vendeans were dis- 
satisfied with the Republic because it was persecuting their 
priests, and they were angered by the execution of Louis XVI. 
However, they did not rise en masse till March 1793, when the 
Convention decreed general conscription. The Neapolitan 


peasantry, in 1799, besides having been shocked in their habits 
and beliefs by new modes of thinking, had been pillaged and 
heavily requisitioned by the French troops. In Spain, in 1808, 
not only had Catholic and national sentiments been grievously 
offended. It was alleged and believed that the French invaders 
were provided with handcuffs in large numbers, which were to be 
used to drag out of the country all young men who were eligible 
for enrollment in Napoleon's armies. 1 The various Carlist 
insurrections in Biscay and Navarre were in large part caused by 
the jealousy with which those provinces cherished their old 
fueros, or local charters, which gave them virtual independence in 
local government and many immunities with respect to public 

The initial leaders of rural insurrections are usually but little 
superior to the peasants themselves in education and social 
status. The famous Spanish cabecilla Mina was a muleteer. 
In Naples in 1799 Bodio was a country lawyer. Pronio and 
Mammone had once been farm laborers, and Nunziante, at best, 
had been a sergeant in the army. Andreas Hofer, who led the 
Tyrolese revolt in 1809, was a well-to-do tavern keeper. The 
initial moves in the Vendean insurrection were led by Cathelineau, 
a hack driver, and Stofflet, a game watchman. But if the higher 
classes happen to approve of the insurrectionary movement and 
it acquires power and weight, other leaders of a higher social 
status step forward very soon. In the Vendee the nobles were 
naturally hesitant because they better understood the difficulties 
of the enterprise, but the peasants went to their castles and 
persuaded them, or, in a sense, obliged them, to place themselves 
at the head of the rebellion. So Lescure, Bonchamps, La Roche- 
jaquelein and Charette de la Contrie, gentlemen all, were drawn 
into the movement. Charette was a cold, shrewd man of 
indomitable will and tireless energy. He at once exhibited all 
the talents of the perfect party leader. Instead of curbing the 
excesses of his followers, he let them satisfy their grudges and 
repay old scores with a view to compromising them and so 
binding them irrevocably to the cause of the rebellion. Among 
all leaders of rural conservative revolts, the only one to compare 
with him is Zumalac&rreguy, a Basque, who was leader in chief 

1 Thiers, Hist&ire du Considat et de V Empire. Thiers drew most of what he 
wrote on the great Spanish insurrection of 1808 from Toreno. 


of the first Carlist insurrection. He too had been an obscure 
country squire. 

Conservative peasant insurrections and urban revolts that are 
made in the name of liberty and progress have one trait in 
common. However short a time they may last, there immedi- 
ately comes into evidence a certain type of person, a person who 
seems to be enjoying the fun and to be interested in prolonging it. 
The initial movement may be general in character, but very soon 
these individuals come to stand out in the crowd. Once they 
have abandoned their customary occupations, they are unwilling 
to return to them. The instinct for struggle and adventure 
grows upon them. They are people, in fact, who have no talent 
for getting ahead very far in the ordinary course of social life 
but who do know how to make themselves felt under exceptional 
circumstances such as civil wars. Naturally they want the 
exception to become the rule. 

After the first and grandest phase of the Vendean insurrection, 
which ended in the terrible rout at Savenay, the war dragged on 
for years and years, because about its leaders had gathered 
groups of resolute men who had become professional rebels and 
would turn to no other trade. This tendency is the more marked 
when revolution is a road to speedy fortune. That was the case 
in Naples, where Rodio and Pronio became generals overnight, 
and Nunziante and Mammone were made colonels. The 
revolutionary leaven that was left in Spain by the six years of the 
war for independence fermented in the long series of civil wars 
that ensued, and in each case at the bottom of the insurrection 
were a number of adventurers who were hoping for fortune and 
advancement. Titles and ranks were easily gained in such 
tumults by serving one or another of the contending parties and 
deserting them in time. The habit of revolution that is con- 
tracted by certain persons further helps to explain the betrayals 
and inconsistencies that are not rare in civil upheavals. People 
who begin by fighting for a principle keep on fighting and 
rebelling after their cause has been won. They simply feel a 
need for rebelling and fighting. 

6. Considered as social phenomena, the revolutions that broke 
out in France during the nineteenth century are especially 


interesting as due to very special political conditions, notably to 
the phenomenon of over-bureaucratization. 

Not of this type was the great Revolution of 1789. That was a 
real collapse of the classes and political forces which had ruled in 
France down to that time. During the Revolution government 
administration and the army completely broke down, owing to 
inexperience in the National Assembly, to emigration and to the 
propaganda of the clubs. For some time they were unable to 
enforce respect for the decisions of any government. By 
July 1789, whole regiments had gone over to the cause of the 
Revolution. From then on, noncommissioned officers and sol- 
diers were carefully lured into the clubs, where they received the 
watchword of obedience to the resolutions of the revolutionary 
committees rather than to the commands of their officers. The 
Marquis de Bouille, commanding the Army of the East, had 
been unable to suppress a dangerous military insurrection at 
Metz. He wrote late in 1790 that, with the exception of a regi- 
ment or two, the army was "rotten," that the soldiers were 
disposed to follow the party of disorder or, rather, whoever paid 
them best, and that they were talking in such terms openly. 1 
The powers, therefore, that had fallen from the hands of the king 
were not gathered up by any ministry that had the confidence of 
the Constituent Assembly. It belonged in turn to the clique, 
or to the man, who on the given day could get himself followed 
to Paris by a show of armed force, whether he were a Lafayette 
at the head of the National Guard or a Danton with a suburban 
mob armed with clubs and iron bars. 

Nevertheless, apparent even in those early days were the 
beginnings of a tendency that was to become stronger and 
stronger during the first half of the nineteenth century. Leaders 
of insurrections always tried to become masters of the individual 
or individuals who impersonated the symbol, or the institution, 
to which France, whether because of ancient tradition or because 
of faith in new principles, was inclined to defer; and, once suc- 
cessful in that intent, they were actually masters of the country 
(see above, ). 

That is what the rioters of October 6, 178&, did when, obviously 
in obedience to a watchword, they went to Versailles and seized 

1 Correspondence entre le comte de Mirabeau et le oomte de La March 


the person of the king. With the monarchy abolished, the 
National Convention became the goal of all surprises, such as the 
coup of May 31, 1793, which made the Assembly that represented 
all France slave to a handful of Paris guttersnipes. The prov- 
inces tried to react, but in vain, because the army remained 
obedient to the orders that emanated from the capital in the name 
of the Convention, though everybody knew that the Convention 
was acting under compulsion. 

The same general acquiescence in everything that happened at 
the seat of government contributed greatly to the favorable out- 
come of the various coups d'6tat that took place under the 
Directory, and down to the establishment of the Napoleonic 

But even more characteristic, perhaps, is what occurred in 
1830, then again in 1848, and finally in 1870. First of all comes 
a battle, more or less protracted and sometimes relatively 
insignificant, with the detachment of soldiers that is guarding the 
buildings in the capital in which are assembled the representatives 
of the supreme power that has previously been recognized as 
legitimate. The famous February Revolution of 1848, which 
overthrew the monarchy of Louis Philippe, cost the lives of 7 
soldiers and 87 civilians, either rioters or bystanders! Next, the 
mob, armed or unarmed, puts sovereigns and ministers to flight, 
dissolves the assemblies and riotously forms a government. This 
government is made up of names more or less widely known to the 
country. The men mentioned take desks in the offices from 
which the former heads of the government have been wont to 
govern, and then, almost always with the connivance or acquies- 
cence of the ordinary clerks, they telegraph to all France that, by 
the will of the victorious People, they have become masters of the 
country. The country, the administrative departments, the 
army, promptly obey. It all sounds like a story of Aladdin's 
wonderful lamp. When by chance or by guile that lamp fell into 
the hands of someone, even a mere child or an ignorant boy, at 
once the genii were his blind slaves and made him richer and more 
powerful than any sultan of the East. And no one, furthermore, 
ever asked how or why the precious talisman came into the boy's 

It may be objected that in 1830 the government had become an 
obedient tool of the Legitimist party, that it had given up all 


pretense to legality, that a large part of France was definitely 
opposed to the political policy which the government was follow- 
ing, and even that a part of the army responded feebly, or not at 
all, at the decisive moment. Also, the catastrophe of 1870 might 
account in part for the change of government that took place in 
France at that time. 

But no element of that sort figured in the sudden revolution 
of 1848. Neither the Chambers nor the bureaucracy nor the 
army were sympathetic to the republican government at that 
time. The majority of the departments were frankly opposed to 
it. Louis Blanc himself confesses as much. After rejecting as 
insulting the hypothesis that the republic had a minority in its 
favor, he admits 1 that a nationwide vote might have declared 
against a republican form of government. And again he says, no 
more, no less: "Why not face the facts? Most of the depart- 
ments in February 1848, were still monarchical/' 2 Lamartine, 
too, in speaking of the impression that the revolution of 1848 
made in France, admits that it was surrounded by an "atmos- 
phere of uneasiness, doubt, horror and fright that had never 
been equaled, perhaps, in the history of mankind." In Paris 
itself the National Guard had been wavering in February because 
it wanted to see an end put to the Guizot ministry. However, it 
was manifesting a reactionary frame of mind in the following 
March and April. A few hours of vacillation were nonetheless 
enough to drive Louis Philippe, his family and his ministers not 
only from Paris but from France, to abolish two chambers and 
to enable a provisional government a mere list of names 
shouted at a tumultuous crowd that was milling about the 
Palais Bourbon to assume from one moment to the next full 
political control over a great country France! 

Citizen Caussidi&re, "wanted" by the police the day before, 
went to police headquarters on the afternoon of February 20, 
1848, at the head of a group of insurgents, his hands still smudged 
with gunpowder. That evening he became chief of police, and 
the next day all the heads of branches in the service promised him 
loyal cooperation and, willing or unwilling, kept their promises. 8 
Police headquarters were, moreover, the only office where the 

1 Eistoire de la Revolution de 1848, vol. I, p. 85. 

2 Ibid., vol. II, p. 3. 

* See the Mtmoires of Caussidiere himself. 


rank and file of the personnel was changed, the old municipal 
guards being dismissed and replaced by Montagnards, former 
comrades in conspiracy and at the barricades of the new chief, 
who afterwards uttered the famous epigram that he stood for 
"order through disorder." 

In the preface to his history of 1848, Louis Blanc decides that 
Louis Philippe fell mainly because his sponsors were supporting 
him for selfish reasons and not because of personal devotion. 
According to Blanc, the "bourgeois king" had very few enemies 
and many confederates but at the moment of danger failed to find 
one friend. That reasoning, it seems to us, has only a very 
moderate value. Not all the people who support a given form of 
government have to feel a personal affection, or have a dis- 
interested friendship, for the individual who stands at the head 
of that form of government. Actually, such sentiments can be 
sincerely felt only by the few persons, or the few families, who 
are actually intimate with him. Political devotion to a sover- 
eign, or even to the president of a republic, is quite another 
matter. The main cause of the frequent sudden upheavals in 
France was the excessive bureaucratic centralization of that 
country, a situation that was made worse by the parliamentary 
system itself. Public employees had grown accustomed to 
frequent changes in chiefs and policies, and they had learned from 
experience that much was to be gained by pleasing anyone who 
was seated at the top and that much was to be lost by displeasing 
such a person. 

Under such a system what the great majority in the army and 
the bureaucracy want and also the great majority in that part 
of the public that loves order, whether by interest or by instinct 
is just a government, not any particular government. Those, 
therefore, who stand de facto at the head of the state machine 
always find conservative forces ready to sustain them, and the 
whole political organism moves along in about the same way 
whatever the hand that sets it in motion. 

Certainly, under such a system, it is easier to change the 
personnel that holds supreme power, as happened in France after 
1830, 1848 and 1870, than it is to change the actual political 
trend of a society. For if the more radical change is the object, 
governors who have emerged from the revolution itself are forced 
to prevent it by the conservative elements which are their instru- 


ments and at the same time their masters. That was the case in 
June 1848 and in 1871. 

Unquestionably, also, a strong sense of the legality and 
legitimacy of an earlier government would prevent submissive 
obedience to a new regime issuing from street rioting. But for a 
feeling of that sort to rise and assert itself requires time and tradi- 
tion, and for France the changes that had occurred doWn to 1870 
were too rapid to enable any tradition to take root. In France 
and in a large part of Europe, during the nineteenth century, 
revolutionary minorities were able to rely not only on the 
sympathy of the poor and unlettered masses but also, and 
perhaps in the main, upon the sympathies of the fairly well- 
educated classes. Rightly or wrongly, young people in Europe 
were taught for the better part of a century that many of the 
most important conquests of modern life had been obtained as a 
consequence of the great Revolution, or by other revolutions. 
Given such an education, it is not to be wondered at that revolu- 
tionary attempts and successful revolutions were not viewed with 
any great repugnance by the majority of people, at least as long 
as they offered no serious menace or actual injury to material 
interests. 1 Naturally, such feelings will be stronger and more 
widespread in countries where the de facto or legal governments 
themselves have issued from revolutions, so that, while condemn- 
ing rebellions in general, they are obliged to glorify the one good, 
the one holy insurrection from which they sprang themselves. 

7. One of the principal agencies by which revolutionary tradi- 
tions and passions have been kept alive in many countries in 
Europe has been the political association, especially the secret 
society. In such societies ruling groups receive their education 
and are trained in the arts of inflaming passions in the masses 
and leading them toward given ends. When it becomes possible 
to write the history of the nineteenth century impartially, much 
space will have to be given to the effectiveness with which the 
Masonic lodges, for example, managed to disseminate liberal and 
democratic ideals, and so cause rapid and profound modifications 

1 On the effects of revolutionary education in France, see Villetard, Insurrec- 
tion du 18 mars, chap. I. [Pierre Mille relates that his aged mother, who had 
seen most of the upsets of the nineteenth century, was alarmed by the long 
quiet after YL "Quoi? Plus de revolutions ? a a Fair louche!" A. LJ 


of intellectual trends in a great part of European society. Unless 
we assume an active, organized and well-managed propaganda 
on the part of such groups, it would be hard to explain how it has 
come about that certain points of view that were the property 
of highly exclusive coteries in a select society at the end of the 
eighteenth century can now be heard expressed in the remotest 
villages by persons and in environments that certainly have not 
been changed by any special education of their pwn. 

Nevertheless, if associations, open or secret, excel as a rule in 
laying the intellectual and moral foundations for revolutions, the 
same cannot be said of them when it comes to rousing the masses 
to immediate action, to stirring up the armed movement at 
the given point on the appointed day. Under that test societies 
and conspiracies fail at least ten times to every time they succeed. 
The reason is evident. To launch a revolution it is not enough 
to have at one's disposal the crowd of jobless adventurers, ready 
for any risk, that are to be found in any great city. The coopera- 
tion of considerable elements from the public at large is also 
necessary. Now the masses are stirred only at times of great 
spiritual unrest caused by events which governments either can- 
not avoid or fail to avoid. Such unrest cannot be created, it can 
only be exploited, by revolutionary societies. The disappoint- 
ment of some great hope, a sudden economic depression, a defeat 
suffered by a nation's army, a victorious revolution in a neighbor- 
ing country such are incidents that are well calculated to excite 
a multitude, provided it has previously been prepared for the 
shock by a revolutionary propaganda. If the rebellious group 
has developed a permanent organization and knows how to take 
advantage of such a moment, it can hope for success; but if it 
rushes into action without any support from exceptional circum- 
stances, it is unfailingly and easily crushed, as happened in 
France in the uprisings of 1832, 1834 and 1840. 

In France, Spain and Italy there are a few cities in which it 
is relatively easy to lead masses to the barricades. That is one 
of the many effects of habit and tradition. Once a population 
has exchanged shots with a constituted government and over- 
thrown it, it will feel, for a generation at least, that it can make 
a new try any time with favorable results, unless repeated and 
bloody failures have chanced to undeceive it. So it is with 
individuals. When they have been under fire a number of times 


they acquire a sort of martial education and fight better and 
better. That is one of the reasons why the Parisian workmen 
fought so stubbornly in June 1848, though, as Blanc explains in 
his history of that episode, the habit of discipline that they had 
acquired in the national armories also figured in their deportment 
"to some extent. The revolutionary elements fought even better 
in 1871 because, as part of the Paris National Guard, they had 
been carefully organized, trained and armed. 

And yet, in spite of all the advantages of time, place and circum- 
stance that a revolutionary movement may enjoy, in our day, 
because of our huge standing armies and the pecuniary resources 
and the instruments of warfare that only constituted powers are 
in a position to procure, no government can be overthrown by 
force unless the men who are in charge of it are themselves 
irresolute or lose their heads, or at least unless they are paralyzed 
by dread of assuming responsibility for a repression involving 
bloodshed. Eleventh-hour concessions, last-minute orders and 
counterorders, the falterings of those who hold legal power and 
are morally bound to use it these are the real and most effective 
factors in the success of a revolution, and the history of the 
"Days of February," 1848, is highly instructive in that regard. 1 
It is a fatal illusion to believe that where there is vacillation and 
fear of being compromised in the higher places, subordinates will 
be found to assume responsibility for energetic measures of their 
own, or even for effective execution of perplexing and contra- 
dictory orders. 

We have seen that if standing armies are well handled they 
can become effective instruments in the hands of legal government 
without disturbance to the juridical equilibrium. We ought 
therefore to examine these complex and delicate organisms in 
order to see how they have come into being and how they can be 
kept from degenerating. 

1 See especially Thureau-Dangin, Hutoire de la Monarchic de JuiUet, last 


1. We have already discussed the predominance of military 
classes (chap. II, 4), and we have seen that in some cases 
warriors have come exclusively from dominant classes, though 
in other cases those classes supply only generals, officers and 
picked corps, while a certain number of the rank and file in less 
esteemed divisions are recruited from lower classes. 

In savage or barbarous countries, where economic production 
is very rudimentary, all adult males are soldiers in the rather 
frequent event of war. In such societies, assuming that pastoral 
nomadism or even an embryonic agriculture and industry exist, 
th6y are never so highly developed as to absorb human activity 
entirely. Sufficient time and energy are always left for adven- 
turous raids and forays. These furnish an occupation that is not 
only agreeable in itself but is almost always lucrative. Among 
such peoples the arts of peace are regularly left to women or to 
slaves. The men devote themselves by preference to the chase 
and to warfare. 

This has happened, and still happens, among all races and in 
all climates when the conditions described above prevail. So 
lived the ancient Germans, the Scyths of classical antiquity, the 
more recent Turkomans, and down to a few years ago the rem- 
nants of the modern American Indians. So many of the Negroes 
of the African interior have always lived, and the Aryan, Semitic 
and Mongolian tribes that have managed to conserve a de facto 
independence in the more inaccessible regions of Asia. 

One factor favorable to the permanence of such a state of 
affairs is the existence of very small political organisms a de 
facto autonomy on the part of each little tribe or village, which 
can make war a daily routine and thefts and reprisals between 
neighbors unending. In the long run, when even very barbarous 
tribes become subject to a regular government that prevents 
internal strife, they become peaceful. This was the case with 

1] MILITARY 223 

the nomadic peoples of Asia, who were long subject to the Chinese 
government, and with the nomads living between the Volga and 
the Ural Mountains, who have long been under the Russian 
yoke. On the other hand, in the Germany and Italy of the 
Middle Ages, we see relatively civilized peoples clinging to warlike 
traditions because they were divided into fiefs and communes, 
among which the right of the mailed fist prevailed. 

But as soon as great political organisms, however rudimentary 
and imperfect, come to be set up and, more especially, as soon as 
economic development has advanced somewhat and war ceases 
to be the most lucrative occupation, we find a special class 
devoting itself to the bearing of arms and making its living not 
so much by plundering its adversaries as by levying tribute in 
some form or other on the peaceful toilers of the country which 
it polices and defends. As we have many times remarked, pro- 
duction is almost exclusively agricultural when civilization and 
culture are at a low level, and warriors either are the owners of 
the land, which they force others to cultivate, or else extort 
heavy tribute from those who do own the land. This was the 
situation in the early period of Greco-Roman antiquity, when 
the dominant military element in the city was made up exclu- 
sively of landed proprietors, and the same phenomenon recurs 
more markedly still in all countries that are feudally organized. 
We find it, therefore, among the Latins and Germans of the 
Middle Ages and also among the Slavs. Among the Slavs how- 
ever, it was a much later development, since they abandoned 
nomadic life and entered upon a permanently agricultural period 
at a fairly recent date. We find it, also, at one period or another, 
in China, Japan and India. In India it reappeared in full force 
during the epoch of decline and anarchy that followed the breakup 
of the empire of the Grand Mogul. Similar organizations may be 
traced in Turkey, Abyssinia, Afghanistan and in ancient Egypt 
in the periods of decadence that were interspersed among the 
various phases of that long-lived civilization. In short, we find 
it in all societies that have not yet issued from the early period of 
crude culture that appears in the history of every great nation; 
and we find it also in the periods of deterioration or decline, 
whether due to internal or external causes, by which countries 
that have attained a high level of civilization change and perish 
as social types (the Roman Empire would be an example). 


. However, as feudal states advance in civilization, a trend 
toward centralization, toward bureaucratic organization, sets in, 
since the central power is constantly trying to free itself of 
dependence upon the good will of the minute political organisms 
that make up the state a good will that is not always prompt and 
freely offered. With that in view, and incidentally for the 
purpose of keeping the small organisms more obedient and 
better disciplined, the central power tries to obtain direct control 
of the agencies that will enable it effectively to enforce its will 
upon other men control of money, in other words, and soldiers. 
So corps of mercenaries, directly in the service of the head of the 
state, come into being, and that development is so natural and 
so regularly recurrent that we find it, in embryo at least, in all 
countries that are feudally organized. 

In the Abyssinia of our day, in addition to the contingents that 
were supplied to him by the various rases, the negus had the 
nucleus of an army in the guards who were attached to his person 
and who were maintained directly by court funds; and in the 
retinue of domestic attendants butchers, hostlers, grooms, 
bakers, and so on who followed the emperor everywhere and 
became soldiers as need required. 1 

In the Bible one notes that the core of the army of David and 
his successors was made up first of warriors who ate at the king's 
table and then of Cherethim and Pelethite mercenaries all men 
so well versed in arms that they successfully dealt with the revolt 
of Absalom, even though that uprising was supported by a 
majority of the people. 2 Renan suggests that the presence of a 
nucleus of foreign retainers in the service of a government was 
peculiar to Semitic peoples, the Semitic sense of tribe and family 
being so strong that native elements were unsuited to enforcing 
respect for the rights of the state, since they always subordinated 
public interests to factional or clan interests. But that situation 
arises, really, wherever the social aggregate is composed of small 
units which are equipped with all the organs required for inde- 
pendent existence and are therefore easily able to rebel against the 
central authority. So the medieval kings of England secured 

1 For an account of the organization of a Shoan army on the march (zemeccia), 
see a report presented by Antonelli to the Italian parliament and published in 
Diplomatic Documents, Dec. 17, 1889. 

* II Sam. 15-18. 


soldiers in Flanders and Brabant. The kings of France sur- 
rounded themselves with Swiss guards, the Italian lords with 
hired Germans; and in this they all were bowing, at bottom, to 
the same political necessities that impelled the kings of Judah to 
enlist Pelethites and Cherethim and, later on, the caliphs of 
Bagdad to have a Turkish guard. 

Under the early republic the Romans had a citizen army that 
was recruited from the dominant and well-to-do classes and was 
made up of individuals who took to arms only in case of need. 
Nothing less than the Roman genius for organization was 
required to bring that system to such perfection as to make it 
possible for the citizen army to develop without shock and almost 
imperceptibly into a real standing army made up of professional 
soldiers. That evolution, as is well known, began in the last 
century of the republic and was already complete when the 
empire was founded. As a rule, standing armies have originated 
in units of native or foreign mercenaries hired by the central 
power to support it against other military forces that have been 
feudally organized. 

As regards the practice of hiring mercenaries, it is interesting to 
note that it was especially characteristic of countries that not 
only were rich but derived their wealth from commerce and 
industry rather than from agriculture. In such countries the 
ruling classes grew unaccustomed to life in the open, which was 
the best preparation for the career in arms, and found it more to 
their advantage to superintend banks and factories than to go 
off to wars. That was the case in Carthage, in Venice and quite 
generally in the wealthier Italian communes, where the mer- 
cantile and industrial burghers soon lost the habit of fighting their 
wars in person, and became more and more inclined to entrust 
them to mercenaries. In Florence citizens were still fighting 
in the battles on the Arbia and at Campaldino, but, as we saw 
above (chap. Ill, 6), the latest record of a campaign conducted 
wholly by citizens belongs to the year 1325. The nationality 
of the mercenaries themselves may sometimes be determined by 
political considerations, and perhaps by the traditional habits and 
aptitudes of certain peoples; but the consideration that most com- 
monly prevails is the plain economic consideration of the largest 
results from the smallest expenditure in other words, the desire 
to have the greatest possible number of soldiers for the least 


possible outlay. Therefore countries relatively poor in capital 
and rich in population, in which time and lives can be bought 
on very favorable terms, have always been the ones to furnish 
the largest numbers of hired troops. 

When the soldier's outfit was expensive and the style of fight- 
ing required a long apprenticeship, as was the case with the 
medieval knight and the Greek hoplite, the mercenary career 
was ordinarily adopted by younger sons, or unplaced mem- 
bers of good families, who by choice or of necessity went 
seeking their fortunes outside their native lands. Xenophon's 
Ten Thousand originated in that way. When equipment was 
cheap and no very long period of training was required, mer- 
cenaries were preferably sought in poor countries where man 
power was plentiful and industry and capital were scarce. Down 
to very recently the volunteer English army was largely 
recruited from the poorer counties of Ireland. Machiavelli in 
his day noted how hard it was to raise mercenaries in the manu- 
facturing cities in Germany. Two centuries later Voltaire 
remarked that of all the Germans the Saxons were least given 
to enlisting as soldiers, Saxony being the most industrious region 
in Germany. In our day, even if the Swiss federal government 
were to allow it, very few Swiss, probably, would be available as 
mercenaries, since Switzerland has become a fairly wealthy 
country. For their part, the European governments that once 
depended on Switzerland for hired guards could now probably 
spend their money to greater advantage right at home. 

S. Native or foreign, once regularly organized mercenaries 
have become the preponderant force in a country, they have 
normally tried to force their rule upon the rest of society. Like 
their feudal predecessors, they have regularly taken advantage 
of their monopoly in the bearing of arms to levy blackmail, to 
live as fatly as possible at the expense of the producing population 
and, especially, to reduce the supreme political power to depend- 
ence on their will. The more perfect their organization and the 
more complete the military disorganization of the rest of the 
country, the more far-reaching has the influence of mercenaries 

Pertinent examples suggest themselves. One thinks at once 
of the praetorian guards and the legions that toyed as they saw 


fit with the Roman Empire. But in general, whenever and 
wherever governments have built up standing armies in order 
to deal with feudal unruliness, or for other reasons, they have 
almost always found themselves at the mercy of those armies. 
As we saw above (chap. II, 4), in order to govern with greater 
absolutism and not be wholly dependent upon the contingents 
that were supplied by the boyars, Ivan IV of Russia organized 
the Strelitzes, a regularly paid force directly responsible to the 
sovereign. Very soon the Strelitzes were making and unmaking 
czars. They became virtually omnipotent in Russia, and 
Peter the Great was able to free himself of them only by shooting 
them down with grapeshot, or beheading them by the thousand. 
At Constantinople, again, the sultans decided to have a thor- 
oughly loyal militia made up of men who had no countries and 
no families and could therefore be brought up in whole-hearted 
devotion to Islam and the Padishah. Such a force, they thought, 
would march without scruple and as need required, not only 
against the infidel but against the sheiks in Arabia and Kurdistan, 
the begs in Albania and Bosnia, and the khans of Turkistan and 
Tartary. So they filled their corps of Janizaries with young 
boys of Circassian, Greek and other Christian stocks, whom they 
bought or kidnaped from their families. But very soon the 
Janizaries became the real authority in the Osmanli empire 
and were creating and deposing sultans. They strangled the 
unfortunate Selim III, who made a first move to curb their 
omnipotence, and in order to get the better of them the sultan 
Mahmud II had to exterminate them almost to the last man. 

The sultans of Constantinople might have profited by the 
experience of the Abbassids of Bagdad, their predecessors in 
the caliphate. The Abbassids, as far back as the ninth century, 
and perhaps earlier, had organized their Turkish guard in order 
to have a loyal militia that would not be raising the standard 
of the Patimids or the Ommiads every other day, as their Arab 
troops had been in the habit of doing. By the time of Motasim, 
who was caliph between the years 833 and 842, the Turkish guard 
had become omnipotent. Turkish mercenaries were doing very 
much as they pleased in Bagdad and committing all sorts of 
outrages, Motasim 's successor, Watthik by name, was deposed 
by the Turks and replaced by his brother Motawakkil. Then 
in the space of four years, 866-870, the Turkish guard made and 


unmade three other caliphs. The caliph Motamid took advan- 
tage of the death of their general, one Musa, to break up their 
power somewhat. He scattered them along the frontiers of 
Khurasan and Dzungaria, and counted every defeat they suffered 
there as a victory for himself. 

In a word, history teaches that the class that bears the lance 
or holds the musket regularly forces its rule upon the class that 
handles the spade or pushes the shuttle. As society advances 
economic production absorbs larger and larger numbers of 
hands and brains, and civilized peoples come to regard the arts 
of peace as their customary occupations. Under these circum- 
stances, to declare in principle that all citizens are soldiers, 
without providing for a sound military organization with a 
nucleus of generals and officers who are specialists in matters of 
war, means in practice that in the moment of peril there will 
be no soldiers at all, and that a populous country will be in 
danger of falling prey to a small army, national or foreign, if 
that army happens to be well trained and well organized. On 
the other hand, to entrust the bearing of arms exclusively to 
elements in a society that are temperamentally best suited to the 
military trade and voluntarily assume it an altogether rational 
and obvious system which many peoples have in the past adopted 
also has its numerous and serious drawbacks. If the society 
is unorganized or loosely organized, that system means that 
every village and town will have its band of armed men. The 
band will comprise those who feel the greatest repugnance to 
regular work and the greatest inclination toward adventure and 
violence, and sooner or later the band, or its leader, will begin to 
tyrannize over peaceful producers quite ignoring any rule or law. 
If the society is somewhat better organized, the bands taken as a 
whole will constitute a ruling class, which will be lords and masters 
of all wealth and all political influence that was the case with 
medieval feudalism in western Europe and with the Polish 
nobility down to a century and a half ago. In a bureaucratic state, 
which represents the most complicated type of social organiza- 
tion, the standing army will absorb all the more belligerent 
elements, and, being readily capable of prompt obedience to a 
single impulse, it will have no difficulty in dictating to the rest 
of society. 


The great modern fact is the huge standing army that is a 
severe custodian of the law, is obedient to the orders of a civil 
authority and has very little political influence, exercising 
indirectly at best such influence as it has. Virtually invariable 
as that situation is in countries of European civilization, it 
represents a most fortunate exception, if it is not absolutely 
without parallel, in human history. Only a habit of a few 
generations' standing, along with ignorance or forgetfulness of 
the past, can make such a situation seem normal to those of us 
who have lived at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of 
the twentieth century, and so find it strange when we chance 
upon exceptions. 

Exceptions have occurred on rare occasions in France, and 
more often in Spain. In Spain the standing army has at times 
overthrown the men in supreme power and even changed the 
form of government. One should remember, however, that this 
has happened at moments of crisis and social disorganization, and 
that once changing governments by violent means has become 
a practice, each party or social class uses the means most con- 
genial to it and within easiest reach in order to gain the upper 

As a matter of fact, it has been possible to subordinate the 
standing army to the civil authority only through an intense 
and widespread development of the sentiments on which juridical 
defense is based, and especially through an exceptionally favor- 
able sequence of historical circumstances. Perhaps we had 
better touch on these circumstances at some length at this point, 
but we might note at once that it is not at all impossible that 
different historical circumstances that are now maturing may end 
t>y weakening, or even undoing, the complex, delicate and sagely 
elaborated mechanism of the modern army. If that actually 
takes place, we may find ourselves back with a type of military 
organization perhaps simpler and more natural but certainly 
more barbarous and less suited to a high level of juridical defense. 

4. The historical process by which the modern standing army 
developed goes back to the end of the Middle Ages. During 
the fifteenth century, first in France and then in other regions of 
Europe, centralized monarchy, parent of the modern bureau- 


cratic state, gradually replaced feudal militias with standing 
armies. Even in those days Europe suffered relatively little 
from military insurrections and military tyranny. This was due 
largely to the fact that the substitution came about slowly and 
gradually. Even toward the end of the Middle Ages European 
armies were becoming so complicated in structure that many 
different social elements were represented in them and served to 
balance one another. At the opening of that historical period, 
the cavalry was in general made up of men-at-arms, who were of 
gentle birth and were profoundly imbued with the aristocratic 
and feudal spirit, but who nevertheless were in the king's pay. 
The infantry was a motley collection of adventurers hailing from 
any number of countries. Little by little a system came to 
prevail whereby the command of infantry regiments, and 
eventually of infantry companies, was entrusted to gentlemen, 
who differed in birth, temperament and background from their 
soldiers. Besides, down to the time of Louis XIV, and even after 
that, an old practice lingered on whereby a nobleman organized at 
his own expense a squadron of cavalry or a regiment or company 
of infantry from among the men who lived on his lands, and then 
hired himself out to some sovereign with his troop ready-made. 
It was always taken for granted that in case of need the king 
could call the whole nobility of the realm to arms. 

The practice of leasing and hiring private regiments lasted 
down to the end of the eighteenth century. The traffic flourished 
especially in Switzerland and Germany. The La Marck regiment 
of German infantry was usually in service in France. Recruited 
preferably in the county of that name, it was always commanded 
by a member of the La Marck family, and the officers were 
appointed by the colonel. It passed on from generation to 
generation by inheritance. All that down to the French Revo- 
lution! 1 The last general call of the whole nobility to arms took 
place in France early in the reign of Louis XIV. It became 
apparent at that time that an assemblage of twelve or fifteen 
thousand knights, all with different sorts of equipment, some too 
young and some too old, all personally courageous but untrained 
to fight in concerted movements, had very little value in actual 
practice. For much the same reasons the Polish cavalry lost 
most of its military importance in the eighteenth century. The 

1 Correspondance entre le comte de Mirabeau et le comte de La Marck, preface. 


Magyar nobility was called to arms for the last time in 1809, 
when the French invaded Hungary. The body so formed was 
composed of horsemen who were individually brilliant but it 
showed little effectiveness in the battle at Raab, which was 
fought in connection with Napoleon's Wagram campaign. 

Though the mixing of different social elements and different 
nationalities prevented the armies of the sixteenth and the first 
half of the seventeenth century from becoming toasters of the 
countries they served, it was no easy matter to maintain toler- 
able discipline among troops made up of adventurers from 
everywhere and largely from the worst elements in society. 
The outrages committed by the German landsknechts and the 
Spanish miquelets became proverbial, but we have no reason to 
assume that the French, Swiss, Italian, Croat or Walloon regi- 
ments behaved very much better. The letters of Don Juan of 
Austria show what hard work, what shrewdness, what energy, 
that general and his officers were called upon to display in order 
to maintain a very relative discipline among the troops that put 
down the Moorish revolt in the Alpujarras, embarked on the 
galleys that won at Lepanto and then served in the war in 
Flanders. There is the story, from early in the sixteenth 
century, that on hearing that a Spanish army, which had gone 
overseas to conquer Algiers, had been defeated and all but 
destroyed, Cardinal Xim6nez exclaimed: "God be praised! 
Spain is free of that many blackguards at least!" At the end of 
the same century, among the unattainable desires that Cervantes 
ascribes to the priest and the apothecary in the village where the 
Caballero de la Mancha was born was a hope that the soldiers 
who were marching from the interior to the seaboard to embark 
for foreign lands would not sack the homes of the peasants, 
their countrymen, along the road. Well known are the feats 
of the troops of all the countries that fought in the famous 
Thirty Years* War. One of the chief reasons for the aversion to 
standing armies that persisted so long in England was dread of 
the licentious ways of professional soldiers. In the reign of 
James II an English regiment under Colonel Kirke returned 
home after some years of service in Tangiers. It became 
notorious for its rapes and robberies. The regimental banner 
bore a lamb as its device, and British humor dubbed the soldiers 
who belonged to it "Kirke's Lambs." 


In parts of Europe where medieval immunities and privileges 
survived down to modem times, the inhabitants of towns clung 
jealously to their right to man the walls and fortifications of their 
cities with local militiamen. Under the Spanish domination at 
Palermo, for instance, though the inhabitants, apart from some 
few lapses, remained loyal subjects to His Catholic Majesty, 
only a very small number of foreign soldiers were allowed to 
enter the town to guard the royal palace and the castle. The 
ramparts with their artillery remained in the control of the city 
militia made up of " the worthy guilds." At times when a question 
of strengthening the royal guard in the city came up, the guilds, 
loud-voiced in their professions of devotion and loyalty to the 
king, nonetheless barricaded the streets and trained the guns of 
the ramparts upon the royal palace. The revolt at Messina in 
1676 was brought on in part by an attempt by Don Luis del Hoyo, 
the strategos, to capture by surprise the forts that were manned 
by the town militia. The licentious conduct which could be 
taken for granted in soldiers was commpnly alleged as the reason 
for such suspicions of the soldiery. 

No better discipline was obtained until well toward the end 
of the seventeenth, or rather till the eighteenth century. Then 
feudal and town militias disappear almost everywhere, and the 
era of real standing armies in the modern sense begins. During 
those periods the necessity of keeping many men in arms and the 
difficulty of paying wages large enough to attract volunteers 
brought on conscription in most countries on the European 
continent. That system meant that common soldiers no longer 
came from the adventurous and criminal classes but were 
recruited from among peasants and workinginen, who never 
thought of devoting their whole lives to military service but 
returned, after the few years required of them, to their ordinary 
occupations. The officers continued to belong to a totally 
different class. They more and more became a sort of bureau- 
cratized nobility, combining the orderliness and conscientiousness 
of the civil service employee with the chivalrous spirit and the 
high sense of honor that were traditional in the wellborn. 

Frederick II of Prussia in his time apologized for having 
been obliged during the Seven Years' War to make army officers 
of many men who were not of noble birth. He felt a certain 
dislike for this new type of officer because, he said, the man who 


was a gentleman by birth could offer greater moral and material 
guarantees. If he dishonored himself as an officer, he could not 
turn to some other pursuit, whereas the plebeian could always 
find some way to get along and was therefore less interested in 
scrupulously living up to the standards of his rank. The 
founder of Prussian power was an altogether unprejudiced indi- 
vidual. Such reasoning on his part shows that in Germany, as 
elsewhere, the growth of a class of people of superior education, yet 
not belonging to the nobility, is a relatively recent phenomenon. 

Only in England and the United States has the old system of 
recruiting volunteers, preferably from among the unemployable 
elements of the poorer classes of society, hung on, conscription 
being resorted to only in great crises, such as the American Civil 
War or the World War. In those two countries, however, and 
especially in the United States, standing armies have always 
been relatively small. In view of their geographical situation, 
defense against foreign foes can in large part be entrusted to a 
navy, while internal order is maintained partly by local militias 
and in larger part by strong and well-organized police forces. 
Class distinctions between officers and privates in the regular 
armies are, furthermore, much more rigorously stressed than is 
the case in armies on the continent of Europe. The result is 
that, in virtue of family connections and education, army officers 
retain close ties with the minority which by birth, culture and 
wealth stands at the peak of the social pyramid. 

The corps of English officers has always maintained a highly 
aristocratic character. The system of purchasing rankings held 
on in the English army down to 1870. In his English Constitu- 
tion, Fischel justly notes that it is not the Mutiny Act that has 
kept the English army from becoming a tool for coups d'etat, but 
the fact that English officers belong by birth and sentiment to the 
classes that down to a few years ago were most largely repre- 
sented in Parliament. The United States has followed the 
English tradition in all this matter. In the federal army there 
is a great difference in class, as well as in rank, between the 
commissioned officer of lowest rank and the noncommissioned 
officer of highest rank. In fact, between them lies an abyss that 
may well be compared to the gulf that separates the Negro from 
the white in the United States, a country where distinctions of 
color are of far greater moment than elsewhere. 


5. The American nonprofessional militia has so far proved to 
be of very mediocre practical value. Washington himself 
remarked that if he were compelled to declare under oath whether 
he considered the militia useful or the reverse, he would have no 
hesitation in replying that it was useless. 1 American foreign 
wars have been fought almost exclusively by federal armies aug- 
mented by volunteer enlistments, and that was also the case in 
the Civil War. As regards internal disorders, one may at least 
wonder whether the American militia is more effective in quieting 
than in aggravating them. It has not been able to prevent the 
lynchings that are still frequent in the United States, and in 
dealing with strikes it has often dispersed or else come to terms. 
In any event, the American militia set the pattern for the Euro- 
pean national guard, and was in a sense the parent of it. Great 
importance was attached to civilian militias down to a century 
or more ago, mainly on account of the political role which they 
were supposedly destined to play. 2 The idea underlying the 
national guard was that it would provide an armed force free of 
blind, unreasoning military discipline and partisanship, which 
would serve to protect parliamentary institutions from encroach- 
ments by an executive power supported by a standing army. 

As far back as the French Revolution, Mirabeau pointed very 
soundly to the drawbacks of such a military body. It would, 
he thought, be likely to favor or suppress a revolt according to 
the mood it happened to be in at the moment, and so in a way 
come to function as an armed arbiter between constituted author- 
ity and revolution. 3 In spite of that, when the French Charter 
was revised in 1880, a special article provided that "the Charter 
and all the rights which it sanctifies shall continue to be entrusted 
to the patriotism and courage of the National Guard." When 
Garibaldi entered Naples to save the Sant' Elmo castle, whence 
the royal troops had theretofore held the city under their guns, 
he had to promise that it would always be garrisoned by the 
Neapolitan national guard. As regards France, to tell the truth, 

1 De Witt, Histoire de Washington, p. 104. 

2 Jannet, Le istituzioni politiche e sociali degli Stati Uniti d* America, part I, 
chap. XVII. 

* "Apercju de la situation de la France et des moyens de concilier la Hbert6 
publique avec 1'autorite royale," in Correspondence entre le comte de Mirabeau et le 
comte de La Marck, vol. II, p. 418. 


the national guard did not always prove ineffective. In 1832 
and 1834, and again in June 1848, fear of socialism inspired the 
peace-loving Parisian burghers with spurts of courage, and the 
national guard helped the army to put down the rioting. But 
in February 1848, dissatisfied with the Guizot ministry, and not 
realizing that a revolution was going on, it was at first hostile 
to the army, then puzzled, then finally inert, and its conduct was 
the main cause of the fall of the July Monarchy. 1 It failed to 
prevent the coup d'etat of December 2, 1851. In 1870-1871 
socialist workers had been allowed to serve in its ranks. The 
elements of disorder therefore prevailed over the elements of 
order, and the citizen militia of Paris became the praetorian 
guard of the Commune. In our day, partly because the low 
efficiency and unsoundness of the institution are too well realized, 
and partly because by now every tradesman and shopkeeper 
has served for a time in the regular army and so has lost his 
enthusiasm for parades and uniforms, the national guard has 
been abolished in all the great countries of Europe. The fact 
that the national guard has lasted longest in Belgium, where 
the introduction of universal compulsory military service was 
also longest delayed, would lead one to suspect that the second 
of the reasons mentioned may not have been the less influential 
of the two. 

6. On this matter of modern military organization in Europe 
and its relation to juridical defense, two further remarks will 
be in point. 

As we have seen, our modern armed forces comprise two 
classes of people, a class of officers, usually recruited from the 
politically dominant ranks of society, having a special education 
and training and beginning service at a fairly high rank, and 
another class made up of privates and petty officers, who find it 
hard to make their way into the higher ranks. Now absurdly 
conventional and arbitrary as this distinction may seem to be 
at first glance, it has always been more or less definitely present 
in all great and well-organized standing armies, whatever the 
period or country. It prevailed at certain periods in ancient 
Egypt. Papyri dating back to the dynasties that won greatest 
glory in arms speak of chariot officers and infantry officers who 

1 Thureau-Dangin, Histoire de la Monarchie de Juillet, vol. VII, chap* VII. 


were educated in special military academies where they were 
introduced to all the hardships of army life. To enter such 
colleges one had to pay not money, which did not then exist, but 
slaves and horses. 1 The same distinction was enforced to a 
certain extent in modern China, where the status of the military 
mandarin was somewhat similar to that of the modern army 
officer in the West. The military mandarin had to pass an 
examination before the military authorities of his province. He 
then entered the militia of one of the eighteen Chinese provinces 
with a relatively high rank. The examination was usually taken 
before the Tchang-kun, or chief, of the Tatar garrison, which 
was to be found, down to a few years ago, in all the strategic 
cities of China. After the civil wars of the middle of the nine- 
teenth century, the various ranks of the military mandarinate 
came to have little importance, because they were often con- 
ferred so arbitrarily that a man who was discharged with a 
rather high rank in one province was often enrolled as a plain 
soldier in the next province, and vice versa. All the same, com- 
mand of large bodies of soldiers was entrusted to governors of 
provinces and other civil mandarins of high rank, who won 
advancement only after a series of hard and thoroughgoing 
examinations. In China, it should be noted, as in ancient 
Rome, the higher civil posts were combined with high military 
posts. 2 

But the distinction in question was unusually strict in the 
Roman legions during the last centuries of the republic and the 
first centuries of the empire. There a line was sharply drawn 
between the ordinary and the so-called equestrian militias. A 
militiaman of the equestrian class began service as a contubernalis 
today we would say "aide-de-camp" to the consul, or to 
the commander of a legion. This cadetship opened the way to 
the rank of military tribune and to the other higher ranks. For 
long centuries, on the other hand, the man who began his career 
as a private in the ordinary militia could at the most become a 
senior centurion, or "first spear," a grade that was the marshal's 
baton, as it were, of the Roman rank and file. This organization 
assured the tenure of high ranks in the army to the same social 

1 Correspondence of Amon-em-ept, librarian to Ramses II (Nineteenth 
Dynasty), with one of his pupils, the poet Pentaur. See Maspero. 
* Rousset, A travers la Chine. 


class that held the high civil magistracies and which, since it 
possessed both wealth and political power, made up the aristoc- 
racy of ancient Borne. The distinction between the militia 
equestris and the ordinary militia was based on a law that made 
the nomination of military tribunes and higher officers the pre- 
rogative of the comitia. Now popular elections in ancient 
Rome, as today in many countries which are not in a state of 
latent revolution and where the elective system has been long 
established, almost always gave preference to the rich, or to 
persons whose families already enjoyed great prestige and 
occupied prominent positions. In the &arly centuries of the 
empire the same organization held on. Tribunes and other 
higher army officers were still chosen from the more conspicuous 
Roman families. Little by little, however, the emperors began 
to excuse, first senators and then knights, from military service, 
fearing them as potential rivals. During the period of military 
anarchy that supervened in the third century A.D. the so-called 
era of the Thirty Tyrants privates could become generals and 
even emperors. 

7. Our other observation relates to one of the most widespread 
conceptions, or misconceptions, in the world that military 
qualities are very unequally distributed among peoples, some 
being naturally timorous and cowardly, others daring and 
courageous. Of course it could never be proved that there is 
no truth whatever in such notions. But beyond question the 
more or less warlike habits of a people and the type and sound- 
ness of its military organization are the elements that contribute 
most, on the whole, to increasing its military prestige. 

In war, as in all dangerous occupations, a certain amount of 
experience is required if one is to face danger calmly and coolly. 
When that experience is lacking it can be made up for only by 
those moments of frenzy that occur at rare intervals in the life of 
every people or by a high sense of duty and honor that can be 
created and kept alive in a limited class of superior individuals by 
a special training. In civilized countries, where the great 
majority of people cannot devote themselves to bloody conflicts 
as a regular profession, one of the goals of military organization 
should be to keep distributed through the masses a small minority 
of individuals who are familiar with such conflicts and have been 


so prepared by the special training mentioned that they can 
dominate the plain soldier, exercise a decisive influence over him 
and lead him to face dangers from which he would otherwise 
recoil. The World War showed that the soundness of an army 
depends very largely on the strength of the patriotic sentiments 
that have been instilled by long and careful education, both 
intellectual and moral, in individuals belonging to the ruling 
classes and in the masses. 

The organization in question may be more or less perfect, or 
even completely absent, and a ruling class may be familiar with 
the business of arms or, for one reason or another, completely 
shy of it. As one scans the history of civilized peoples, therefore, 
it is apparent that almost all of them have had their moments of 
military glory and their periods of material weakness. The 
Hindus were conquered and despoiled time after time by Turks, 
Mongols, Afghans and Persians, and they submitted to a few 
thousand Englishmen in the eighteenth century; yet of all the 
Asiatic peoples they were the ones who offered the stoutest 
resistance to the Macedonians. The natives of Egypt have for 
centuries had the reputation of being cowardly fighters, yet the 
troops of Amasis and Thutmosis, in their day the best armies in 
the world, were recruited among the inhabitants of the lower 
valley of the Nile. From the day of Leonidas down to Alexander 
the Great, the Greeks were considered very valiant soldiers, and 
in Xenophon's time they spoke with the greatest scorn of the 
Syrians and the Mesopotamians. But when Islam rose, the 
Semitic peoples of Asia took the lead again and literally massa- 
cred the unwarlike populations that gave their obedience to 
Byzantium. Amari 1 seems inclined to ascribe the submissiveness 
that the Greeks displayed under Byzantine rule to the influence 
of Christianity. Now in the first place the Byzantine Empire 
lasted for ten centuries, and during that time it had not a few 
moments of extraordinary military energy. Then again, Chris- 
tianity did not have any such effect on the Germans or the Slavs, 
and it is to be noted that the warlike spirit also revived among 
the Latin peoples of the West, opce Roman administration had 
actually been obliterated and a feudal organization had emerged 
from anarchy. The real fact is that imperial efficiency and the 
Pax Romana had unaccustomed the citizens of the empire to 

1 Storia dei Musulmani in Sicilia. 


arms, so that once the regular army was disposed of they fell 
a ready prey to any invader. 

The Italians of the Renaissance made wretched soldiers, being 
unused to anything like real warfare. However, the Roman 
legionaries had been recruited among their ancestors. They 
had shown not a little valor in the day of the communes, and not 
so many generations after Machiavelli's time, the Italian regi- 
ments rivaled the Spanish in steadiness at the famous affair at 
Rocroi. The Neapolitans owed the very special reputation for 
cowardice that they enjoyed in a day not long past rather to a 
lack of cohesion and moral unity, which they displayed on a 
number of occasions, than to any deficiency in personal courage. 
In Spain and Russia under Napoleon I, and on other occasions 
as well, Neapolitan troops gave a fairly good account of them- 
selves. Preeminence in some special branch of warfare and in 
certain definite military qualities is a very ephemeral thing 
among the nations, everything depending on the civil and military 
organization of the country in question. Machiavelli judged the 
French cavalry the best in Europe, since, he said, the French 
nobility were wholly devoted to the military calling. The 
infantry of that same nation he considered very poor, "because 
it was made up of the lowest rabble, and of artisans who were so 
overridden by the barons in everything they did that they could 
only be craven cowards." But, lo, the social and military 
organization changes, and the infantry becomes the backbone of 
the military power of modern France! 

Muza ben Noseir, the Arab general who conquered Spain, 
said, in one of his reports to his caliph, Walid I, that the Goths 
(by which he meant all the Spanish) were "eagles on horseback, 
lions in their castles, weak women afoot/' During the Penin- 
sular War Wellington deplored the unsteadiness of the Spanish 
infantry in the open field, whereas behind the battlements of 
Saragossa, Tarragona and other cities, the same infantry showed 
extraordinary valor and stubbornness. Now we must assume 
that at the time of the Arab invasion the cavalry was composed 
of nobles, who were well trained in arms. As was the case later 
on, in the day of Napoleon, the infantry was probably thrown 
together by mass conscription and could show its native courage 
only behind battlements or in fortresses, not having acquired as 
yet the courage that comes from long habituation to military 


life and from a well-selected personnel. That, beyond any 
doubt, was the main asset of the Spanish infantry of the late 
Renaissance, from the day of Ferdinand the Catholic down to 
the day of Philip IV. During that period the Spanish army was 
regarded as the best fighting force in all Europe. 

8. In our day a reaction against large standing armies has 
set in. They are blamed for withdrawing hands from factory 
and field, for instilling vices in the young and for occasioning 
almost unbearable expenditures of public treasure. Such plaints 
come in the main, it is true, from social elements that have at all 
times most conspicuously exhibited an inclination to assert them- 
selves and to impose their will on the rest of society by force 
from those who spontaneously and by nature have the greatest 
taste for the bearing of arms, and who, perhaps unconsciously, 
find an obstacle to the full expression of their instincts in the 
present military organization of the peace-loving, producing 
masses. We allude to the subversive revolutionary elements of 
our time, who count among their number the boldest, most 
adventurous and most violent elements in modern societies. 
But it is nonetheless true that the very pressures that have led 
the different European nations to create the prevailing organiza- 
tion of standing armies are now tending so to broaden and extend 
the application of the principles on which modern armies are 
founded as to alter and denature their structure. 

First in the Napoleonic wars and then, and more particularly, 
in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, victory went to the nations 
that had equipped and mobilized the largest armies. Those 
experiences brought the system of compulsory military service 
to exaggerated extremes in almost all the continental countries 
of Europe, and we have now come to the point where people 
think that in case of need they can turn the whole able-bodied 
populations of states of thirty, forty, seventy millions of inhabi- 
tants into armies. But to bring such an undertaking within 
range of the possible, it has been necessary to curtail terms of 
preliminary service, and that makes it doubtful whether con- 
scripted recruits have time to acquire the habits and the special 
frame of mind which should distinguish the soldier from the 
rest of society, and which for technical and especially for political 
reasons must not be weakened beyond a certain point. Military 


expenditures for men, officers and armaments, which have to be 
renewed constantly, have enormously increased. It is becoming 
harder and harder to keep up with them, and public debts have 
piled up monstrously. This is one of the most serious afflictions 
of many modern countries, and under it some of the economically 
weaker nations are in danger eventually of succumbing. 

In the introduction to the 1884 edition of Das Volk in Wtyffen, 
the late General von der Goltz expresses a favorite idea of his, 
that in the military history of the nations one may detect the 
conflict and alternating triumph of two opposite military tend- 
encies. A first tendency is to increase masses of combatants 
more and more, to conquer by sheer weight of numbers. That 
process goes on and on until huge masses of men are led to 
war. Such masses are hard to handle and are always inade- 
quately drilled, so that they come to be conquered by small armies 
of well-drilled professional soldiers. So specialization in the 
military function becomes the second tendency, which in turn 
leads to a renewal of mass armings. 

General von der Goltz believed in the eighties that in Europe 
the trend toward increasing numbers of combatants had not yet 
reached its limit, and his prophecy was certainly valid for the 
World War. But the historical phenomenon which he stressed 
does not always unfold in regular rhythm. It at least undergoes 
exceptions and fluctuations, however clearly it may manifest 
itself in some few special cases. The Medo-Persians, according 
to the accounts of the Greek historians, succeeded in conquering 
all southwestern Asia by mobilizing enormous masses of men. 
The fact that Cyrus was able to keep a huge army under the 
colors for more than one season was the cause of the rapid decline 
of the kingdom of Lydia. Great units of armed men held the 
field for long periods pf time, also, during the two sieges of 
Babylon that took place under Cyrus and under Darius, son of 
Hystaspes. Other great masses were mobilized in the expedition 
against the Scyths and in the campaign of Xerxes, It was 
during the latter that the Persian military machine began to 
betray its defects. Because of the very fact that they belonged 
to a wide-rambling state the contingents from the various peoples 
who made up the Persian empire came, to lack the training 
required for unending wars. Gradually their military abilities 
declined. The army became a mere assemblage of disorganized 


mobs which could not withstand the onrush of the Greek hop- 
lites. These were few in number but they were thoroughly 
trained, heavily armed and skilled in fighting in mass formations, 

Certainly in its process of expansion the modern military 
machine has become more and more complicated, more and more 
delicately adjusted. To direct its functioning in time of mobiliza- 
tion and war has become a task that bristles with greater and 
greater difficulties. We may even ask ourselves whether war 
itself will be possible whfen each passing day of hostilities, what 
with economic losses to the country and expenditures from the 
exchequer, will cost every nation tens and tens of millions, and, 
when a declaration of war will harm the interests and shock the 
emotions of every single family in a whole civilized population. 
If the moral aversions and the economic interests that are 
opposed to war among civilized nations are able to stave such 
conflicts off for as few as sixty or seventy successive years, it is 
doubtful whether the military and patriotic spirit upon which 
modern armies are based, and which alone makes possible the 
enormous material sacrifices that wars require, can be passed on 
to the rising generations. 

When the decline of that spirit and prolonged peace have 
abolished standing armies, or reduced them to "semblances 
vain and subjectless," a danger will again arise that the military 
predominance of the West may revert to other races, other 
civilizations, that have had, or will have had, different develop- 
ments from the European, and will meantime have appropriated 
European methods and instruments of destruction. If that 
danger seems too remote and too fanciful to some of us, no one 
can deny that, within the structure of European nations them- 
selves, there will always be violent characters and timid charac- 
ters there will always be conflicts of interest, and the will to 
have one's own way by brute force. Now the modern organiza- 
tion of the standing army has so far stripped the class of persons 
who have natural tastes and capacities for violence of their 
monopoly of the military function. When that organization has 
been dissolved or weakened, what is to prevent small organiza- 
tions of the strong, the bold, the violent, from again coming to 
life to oppress the weak and the peaceful? When war has ended 
on a large scale, will it not be revived on a small scale in quarrels 
between families, classes or villages? 


Indeed, from the doubts we have been voicing, a conclusion 
which we hardly have the courage to put into words may be 
drawn. It is that war itself in its present forms the root of so 
many evils, the parent of so many barbarities becomes neces- 
sary every now and again if what is best in the functioning of our 
western societies today is not to decline and retrogress to lower 
types of juridical defense. Grave and terrible as this conclusion 
is, it is, after all, only one more consequence of our complex and 
contradictory human nature. In the history of the nations, good 
and evil are inevitably linked. The juridical and moral improve- 
ment of society goes hand in hand with expressions of the basest 
and most selfish passions and the most brutish instincts. 

The modern organization of armies, it will be noted, runs 
counter to the economic principle of the division of labor and to 
the physiological law of the adaptability of the various bodily 
organs to given purposes. That shows once again how hazard- 
ous it is to set up analogies between the phenomena of the human 
body and the phenomena of the social body, and once again calls 
attention to the reservations that have to be made in regard to 
certain economic laws when they are applied in the field of poli- 
tics. If the principle of the division of labor were to be too 
rigorously followed in the political field it would easily upset all 
juridical balance, for the whole of a society would become sub- 
ject to the group that exercises not the highest function from the 
intellectual or moral standpoint but the most indispensable func- 
tion the function that most readily enables some men to force 
their will upon others the military function, in other words. 


1. In the first chapter we set forth the reasons why the con- 
stant tendencies or laws that regulate the organization of human 
societies can be discovered only through the study of history; and 
in the chapters following we tried to determine the nature and 
manner of functioning of some of those laws. We tried to demon- 
strate that in any human aggregate which has attained a certain 
level of civilization a ruling minority exists, and that this minority 
is recruited in ways that may vary but that are always based 
upon the possession of multiple and variable social forces in 
other words, of those qualities or resources which give moral 
prestige and intellectual and economic preeminence to the indi- 
viduals who possess them. We also tried to make it clear that 
every society is founded upon a complex of religious and philo- 
sophical beliefs and principles which are peculiar to it and by 
which it explains and justifies the type of organization that it 
happens to have. This gave us occasion to consider differences 
in social types, which are in the main due to fundamental dif- 
ferences in the philosophical and religious systems or political 
formulas that share dominion over the majority of minds in 
those portions of mankind that have attained a certain level of 

In this connection we made two points that seem to us sus- 
ceptible of scientific and practical applications of some moment. 
We tried to show that the highest grade of juridical defense, the 
greatest respect for law and morals on the part of those in power, 
can be obtained only through the participation of many different 
political forces in government and through their balancing one 
another. We think we showed conclusively, further, that no 
philosophical or religious doctrine can change human nature very 
radically or at all permanently, if it fails to limit its propaganda 
to a small number of chosen individuals, or "superior souls," and 
iries to educate a whole great society and govern it by imbuing it 
with certain principles. Of course, we do not deny that the 



predominance of a given doctrinary or religious outlook may 
have upon a people a practical influence that is very considerable. 

Chapters VIII and IX applied the theories we had previously 
set forth to a phenomenon that is very common in modern times, 
revolution by violence, and to a diametrically opposite phenome- 
non, the modern organization of standing armies. In our opinion 
the standing army as at present organized prevents the element 
in society which would naturally monopolize military power 
from enforcing its will by violence upon other social forces. 

A somewhat more delicate and difficult task now awaits our 
attention, for it would seem to be our duty, now that we have 
stated our theories, to see just what light they throw on the more 
important problems that are at present agitating the nations of 
European civilization. Such a study may help to clarify the 
nature of those problems, and even suggest the more plausible 
solutions that may be found for them. 

&. The problems that more especially engage our interest here 
are three in number. We state them in the form of questions: 

1. Will the dogmatic religions of our day the different forms 
of Christianity in other words, manage somehow to survive the 
present drift toward revolution, and, especially, to resist the 
rationalistic movement which for some time has been tending to 
destroy them ? 

. Will present-day forms of government by elected authori- 
ties, in particular the system of government that is commonly 
styled parliamentarism, be able to last very long? In case we 
find that such systems have to be changed, in what direction can 
they, or must they, be modified? 

3. What is the future of our civilization to be with respect to 
social democracy in one form or another that impressive cur- 
rent of feelings and ideas which is sweeping so many countries in 
Europe and the Americas and which, in one sense, is a logical 
consequence of their more recent history and is quite capable 
of modifying their future very substantially? 

The first of the questions may at a casual glance seem to be 
the easiest to answer. Actually it is not. Many more imponder- 
ables and unforeseeables are involved in it than in the other 
questions, which very properly seem to be so complicated and 
which, for that matter, are closely related to the first. 


Many people declare with all assurance that science is bound 
to destroy dogma; and superficially that opinion has a great deal 
to be said for it. There is no denying that geology, paleontology, 
the physical and chemical sciences and the higher criticism 
(which is nothing more than historical criticism itself) are open- 
ing wide breaches in the whole structure of the supernatural 
contained in the Old and New Testaments and in the doctrine 
that the early Fathers were "inspired." What is more, even if 
science were not impairing religious beliefs directly, a mind 
trained to its strict methods can, if it is dispassionate, only feel 
an unconquerable aversion to accepting dogmatic doctrines and 
statements. These it must look upon as so many gratuitous 

In this connection a comment by Cherbuliez on a book issued 
by Behramji, a learned Brahman, is enlightening. Though he 
had been reared by Surat missionaries, Behramji had forsworn 
the religion of his fathers, without, however, becoming a Chris- 
tian. Says Cherbuliez: 

Hundreds of thousands of his countrymen find themselves today in 
the same situation. ... In Bengal, as well as in Gujarat, Christianity 
is the most active of dissolvents. It is corroding and imperceptibly 
destroying the old idolatries. However, it does not succeed in replacing 
them. The altar is left empty and sits consecrated to an unrecognized 
god. Hindus no longer believe in the Trimurti, in the incarnation of 
Vishnu, in metempsychosis, but they are far from believing, either, 
in the Holy Trinity, in the incarnation of Jesus, in Satan, in Hell; and 
the Paradise to which St. Peter holds the keys has few attractions for 
them. 1 

This state of mind on the part of cultured Hindus is readily 
understandable. The Christian religion can still be practiced 
by a man who has been initiated into European science, because 
it is rooted in sentiment, not in reason. But in people who have 
not beeij born to Christianity, or have not been brought up in 
Christian families, no such sentiment will be active. 

All the same it must not be forgotten that religious beliefs 
have always responded not to any demand of the reason, but to 
other psychological needs, and especially to the demands of 
human sentiment. If, in one sense, religious beliefs may be 
considered illusions, they endure not because they seem to be 

1 "Un voyage dans le Giwerate." 


true but because men feel that they need Elusion. That need is 
so universal and so strong, especially at certain moments in life, 
that we often see well-balanced, sensible individuals, people of 
robust intelligence who have been trained to a sound sense of 
realities and possess no end of scientific knowledge, paying lavish 
tribute to it. 

Nor should we attach too great an importance to a phenomenon 
that we are now witnessing, particularly in Catholic countries. 
Christian observances are disappearing in large cities in France, 
in many cities in Spain and northern Italy and perhaps also in 
some cities in Germany and North America; and they are disap- 
pearing in those regions in the lower classes rather in the 
classes that possess a certain amount of ease and education. 

We must not infer from this fact that rationalistic or scientific 
education has made any great progress in the lower classes. A 
person may not only question the truth of religious doctrines 
he may also be convinced that all religions are historical phe- 
nomena born of innate and profound needs of the human spirit, 
and that attitude may be arrived at through a realistic mental 
training based on comprehensive studies that has gradually 
accustomed the mind not to accept as true anything that is not 
scientifically proved. In such a case, on losing one system of 
illusions, the individual is left so well balanced that he will not 
be inclined to embrace another, and certainly not the first that 
comes along. But the mass of lower-class unbelievers that we 
have in nations of European civilization today and also, it must 
be confessed, the great majority of unbelievers who are not 
exactly lower-class, do not arrive at rationalism over any such 
road. They disbelieve, and they scoff, simply because they have 
grown up in environments in which they have been taught to 
disbelieve and to scoff. Under those circumstances, the mind 
that rejects Christianity because it is based on the supernatural 
is quite ready to accept other beliefs, and beliefs that may well 
be cruder and more vulgar. 

The workingman in Paris, Barcelona, Milan, the farm laborer 
in Romagna, the shopkeeper in Berlin, are at bottom no more 
emancipated from the ipse dixit than they would be if they went 
to mass, to a Protestant service or to the synagogue. Instead of 
believing blindly in the priest they believe blindly in the revolu* 
tionary agitator. They pride themselves on being in the van* 


guard of civilization, and their minds are open to all sorts of 
superstitions and sophistries. The moral and intellectual status 
which they have attained, far from being an enlightened positiv- 
ism, is just a vulgar, sensuous, degrading materialism it is 
"indifferentism," if one prefers to call it that. Before they go 
laughing at the Neapolitan loafer who believes in the liquefaction 
of San Gennaro's blood, such people should try to train them- 
selves not to accept as true things that are just as absurd and 
certainly a great deal more harmful. 

3. What religion meets today, therefore, in large portions of 
the European masses, is not a positivism, or an agnosticism, that 
is rational and, so to say, organic, but a vulgar imitative atheism. 
That being the situation, religious beliefs are still in a position 
and will be for a time, until indifferentism has become a matter 
of tradition to regain, quite as rapidly, the ground that they 
have so rapidly lost. It may well be that within a few genera- 
tions socialist doctrines and revolutionary impulses will openly 
have declared their bankruptcy. It may just as well be that 
that result will be attained only after civil struggles and grievous 
moral and economic sufferings comparable not to those that 
followed the tiny overnight revolutions of the nineteenth century 
but to those which tried the generations of the great Revolution 
so sorely. It has often been remarked that Christianity is the 
religion of hard times rather than of prosperous times. People 
can easily get along without it when life is running along smoothly 
and comfortably, when the future opens smiling before us, when 
material pleasures abound. But people need its hopes and its 
comforts, and very urgently, when catastrophes or grievous dis- 
appointments are their lot, when privations and sorrows embitter 
today and leave the prospect of the morrow still more bitter. 
Christianity enjoyed a decisive triumph once before in history 
when the upper and middle classes of the ancient world were 
smitten with the appalling catastrophes and the unutterable 
sufferings that followed upon the final victories of the barbarians 
and the fall of the western Empire. Says Gaston Boissier: "The 
sufferings of those days [the period of the invasions] seemed 
destined to strike a deadly blow at Christianity. Actually they 
made its victory certain." 1 In a number of large cities of the 
1 "Le lendemain de 1'invasion." 


empire, and in Rome especially, the upper classes had been 
generally hostile to the new religion down to the time of St. 
Augustine. If, in our day, many lives are sacrificed and a large 
part of European wealth is squandered in social struggles, or in 
vain attempts to effect social reforms, it is not at all unlikely that 
the luxury and waste that was characteristic of the first three 
decades of the twentieth century will be followed by an era of 
depression and comparative poverty, during which Christian 
doctrines will again find the terrain propitious for recapturing 
the hearts of the masses. In France and other countries, revivals 
of pietism have a way of following serious epidemics or catas- 
trophes. In 1832, for instance, a cholera epidemic very appreci- 
ably weakened an aversion to priests that the revolution of 1830 
had aroused. Another religious reaction followed the terrible 
war year of 1870-1871. It is interesting that in both those 
cases the sufferings involved were very ephemeral and had been 
quite forgotten within a few years. 

So far, in Catholic countries, the Catholic Church has enjoyed 
very considerable autonomy and claimed the right to interfere 
extensively in public affairs. Anticlerical propaganda has there- 
fore been fostered, directly or indirectly, by all secular authorities 
with which the papacy has found itself in any violent conflict 
of interests. That was the case in France during the first years 
of the July Monarchy and at certain periods under the Third 
Republic. It was the case in Italy during and after the fall of 
the temporal power of the papacy. But such episodes have 
occurred time and again in the lives of the Catholic peoples. It 
would be an error to think of them as touching the essence of 
history, and to regard them as wars to the death, brooking neither 
treaty nor truce. As has very often happened in centuries past, 
after a position has been desperately disputed the losing party 
gets used to the new state of affairs and resigns itself to at least 
tacit acceptance. The Catholic Church has had a number of 
such hours of silent resignation in the course of its long history. 

4. Less amenable to conciliation is the antagonism between 
the positive scientific method and the supernatural and dogmatic 
premises which underlie all religions, the Christian included, and 
which Catholicism has recently been stressing to a more and more 
marked degree. But faith is very old and science relatively new. 


Certain glimmers of science were visible in ancient Egypt, in 
Babylon, in Brahmanic India, in China; but they were uncoor- 
dinated gleams, clquded almost always by mystery, and between 
them came long centuries of darkness. The scientific light that 
was generated by Greco-Roman civilization was stronger, but 
it too all but faded with the decline of the ancient world. New 
gleams flashed during the more splendid period of Arab civiliza- 
tion, which took advantage of stray rays from ancient Greece 
and from the Persia of the Sassanids. Those, also, were snuffed 
out by the progressive barbarization of the Mohammedan world. 1 
But as an integrating force in a civilization, as a real contribution 
made by a historical period, positive science came into being 
in the sixteenth century. It did not get a firm hold until the 
eighteenth in a Europe which had inherited and was then turning 
to account doctrines and ideas that had been developed by many 
different peoples, many different civilizations. That there 
should have been a struggle between this new social force, which 
was trying to assert itself, and religion, which was trying to 
defend itself and, as a first step, seeking to smother its new rival 
in infancy, is natural and altogether understandable. Religion 
first tried to deny the results of science and then smote them with 
its anathema. Science, for its part, turned with particular zest 
to the task of discrediting the dogmas of religion in the eyes of 
the masses. 

But many institutions, like many people, seem utterly incom- 
patible yet in the end are forced to get along together somehow, 
since they cannot suppress each other outright. If science 
attacks dogma, directly or indirectly, its field at least is different 
from the field of religion. Scientific thought deals with the 
human intelligence. Faith has its basis in sentiment. Science, 
necessarily, is accessible only to the small number of individuals 
who have the ability and the opportunity to lead highly intellec- 
tual lives. Religion exerts its influence upon the masses. Any 
two religions, which are unavoidably obliged to refute each other 
and compete within the same field, are far more incompatible 
than science and any given religion. Sometimes, nevertheless, 
after long, cruel conflicts, two religions end by tolerating each 
other, once they become convinced that they cannot destroy 

1 Amari, Storia dei Musulmani in Swilia, especially vol. Ill, pp. 702 f.; Renan, 
Averrods et VAverrvisme. 


each other; and today we find Catholics and Protestants, Chris- 
tians and Mohammedans, Mohammedans and idolaters, living 
together peaceably in the same communities. 

China, perhaps, offers in this regard an example that better 
suits our case. In China the educated governing classes sub- 
scribe to a vague sort of deism, which at bottom is rational 
positivism pure and simple. Rational and positive at least are 
the practical implications of the teachings of Confucius. Once 
when Kilou, a disciple of Confucius, was questioning the master 
on the matter of death, he obtained this reply: "You cannot 
find out what life is. Why should you be so anxious to know 
what death is?" Tze-Kong, another disciple, once asked 
whether the souls of the dead knew what went on in the world of 
the living, and Confucius answered: "You need feel no great 
concern, Tze-Kong, about knowing whether the souls of our 
ancestors are aware of what goes on among us. There is no 
hurry about solving that problem. Wait a while and you will 
see for yourself what the truth is.*' 1 The Chinese masses are 
Buddhists, or else follow Lao-tse or Mohammed. Buddhism is, 
in a sense, legally recognized and public authorities participate 
officially in its rites. 

Now something of the same sort may very well come about in 
Europe. It seems highly improbable that any new religions will 
rise, let alone spread, in the western world in the near future. 
The various forms of Christianity will maintain their predomi- 
nance, therefore, in the countries where they are now pre- 
dominant. Because of its better organization and more coherent 
dogmatism, Catholicism will probably gain some little ground 
over the various Protestant sects, especially in England and the 
United States. In the long run, a mutual toleration may be 
established between the positivism, or, rather, the scientific 
skepticism, of the better educated and the beliefs that are held 
not only by the poor and unlettered masses but also by that large 
portion of the well-to-do classes which by sex, habit, education 
and temperament is more responsive to sentimental impulses. 

Skeptics must understand that no social advantage is to be 

gained by spreading a propaganda of unbelief among those who 

feel a need for religious beliefs or who are too ignorant ever to 

succeed in developing original and personal views of their own in 

1 Bousset, A travers la Chine, chap. VI. 


regard to natural and social problems. On the other hand, the 
leaders of the Christian, and particularly of the Catholic, move- 
ment should finally become persuaded that persuasion, to tell 
the truth, seems to be rather hard to acquire that science is now 
so much a part of the life of civilized humanity that it will not be 
easy to smother and destroy it. 

However, the solutions which we have just mentioned of 
modern problems concerning the relations between church and 
state and between science and the dogmatic religions are to be 
thought of merely as possible solutions. That does not mean 
that they are easy ones to achieve, much less that they are the 
ones that will necessarily be adopted. If they are to be adopted, 
the parties that are now in conflict must possess great political 
sagacity, and, unhappily, it is not sagacity that on the whole 
rules human events, but passions, hatreds, fanaticisms. It 
should not be forgotten, either, that the democratic-socialist 
current today amounts virtually to another religion, which is 
fiercely competing with Christianity and is almost wholly incom- 
patible with it. 

Another possibility is that in the clash between the Christian 
and socialist currents not enough freedom and toleration will be 
left to allow the few individuals who are capable of retaining 
independence of thought in the presence of grave social and 
political problems, to go on living and prospering. Unfor- 
tunately, the epochs in which individuals have been permitted 
to express their thoughts freely, and have not been obliged 
to pay homage to some type of fanaticism and superstition, have 
been privileged epochs. They are rather exceptional in the 
history of mankind and as a rule they have not lasted very long. 
More often human societies have settled down for centuries upon 
some system of beliefs to which they have sacrificed all liberty 
of discussion and thought; or else they have cruelly tormented 
themselves because two different currents of doctrine and belief 
have been fighting for social predominance with every possible 
weapon. Moments of relative peace and toleration, moments 
when passions have been held in leash somewhat and the human 
mind has been able to observe and reason calmly, have been no 
more than blessed breathing spaces, separated by long intervals 
of fanatical bigotry, of savage conflict and persecution. 


That any such breathing space can easily be brought to an 
end is proved by the many civilizations which have now declined 
or become static, yet which must have had their moments when 
thought was relatively free otherwise they could not have 
attained the level of intellectual progress that they once attained. 
In Europe Greek civilization declined from what it was in the 
age of Aristotle to what it was in the Byzantine age. After the 
glowing scientific civilization of the early centuries of Rome a 
civilization which the most cultivated modern nations did not 
overtake till the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries came a 
decline, now slow, now rapid, to the barbarism that we find 
described by Gregory of Tours and Paul the Deacon, and then on 
to the barbarism, even more abject and degraded, that we find 
chronicled by Raoul Glaber. 1 As one thinks of those great 
eclipses of the human intelligence, one is inclined unhappily to 
suspect not, of course, to prophesy that the era in which we 
are now living may be followed by one in which the individual 
will not be free publicly to profess, or not to profess, the Christian 
religion, and in which spontaneous and sincere expression of 
thought, full independence of scientific inquiry, will be limited 
by the necessity of keeping intact that one of the conflicting 
political formulas which shall chance, after long and dogged 
struggles, to come off victorious. 

5. Closely linked with the religious problem, as well as with the 
problem of social democracy, is our second question (2), which 
concerns the crisis that representative, and especially parliamen- 
tary, governments are now traversing. 

As is well known, new and important social forces came to the 
fore in Europe during the eighteenth century forces based on 
the production of new wealth, on a different distribution of 
wealth and on the rise in Europe of an educated, prosperous 
middle class. But ignoring those matters for the moment, one 
may say that two intellectual currents were originally responsible 
for developments in the field of politics which brought almost all 
the peoples of European civilization to adopt representative forms 
of government, and, in not a few cases, parliamentary forms of 

1 See above, chap. HI, 10. 


The first current we shall call the liberal current. It was 
based on the doctrines of Montesquieu. It sought to set up a 
barrier against bureaucratic absolutism by means of a separation 
of powers. We have already seen that this theory, incomplete as 
it may have been, cannot be regarded as mistaken in any sub- 
stantial respect. 

The second current was the democratic current. Its intellec- 
tual parent was Rousseau. According to this theory, the legal 
basis of any sort of political power must be popular sovereignty 
the mandate which those who rule receive from the majority 
of citizens. Not only the legitimacy of governors but their 
worth their ability to satisfy the interests and ideals of the 
masses and to lead them toward economic, intellectual and moral 
betterment depends upon their genuinely applying the premise 
of popular sovereignty. 

Rousseau, the real parent of the doctrine of popular sover- 
eignty and hence of modern representative democracy, expresses 
himself in one or two pages of the Control social 1 as decidedly 
opposed to any delegation of sovereignty, and therefore to repre- 
sentative systems. However, the democratic school, which took 
its cue from the principles laid down by the Genevan philosopher, 
was obliged to accept the principle of representation for many 
reasons. One of them must not be forgotten: that the practical 
model which liberals and democrats had before them in applying 
their doctrines was the English constitution of the eighteenth 
century. That constitution had derived the principle of repre- 
sentation from its feudal origins and had retained and developed 
it. This second current of ideas, carried to its ultimate develop- 
ments and implications, has produced, along with theories of 
representative government, the theories of modern social 

Many objections are now being urged against representative 
government in general, and especially against those forms of it 
in which the democratic ideal may be said to have been best 
realized, in view of a broad-based popular suffrage and the 
political preponderance that has been acquired by elective 
"lower houses." These objections are of three orders. A first 
group focuses upon the prattlings, the long-winded speeches, the 
futile bickerings, with which parliamentary assemblies largely 

* E.g. chap. XV. 


busy themselves. Another group and we consider it better 
founded is put forward chiefly by advanced socialists or anar- 
chists. Their criticisms come down to the charge that, given 
the unequal distribution of wealth that prevails at present, 
parliaments do not represent the interests and aspirations of 
majorities, but the interests of wealthy ruling classes. The third 
group, finally, is best founded of all. It relates to the excessive 
interference, not so much by lower houses as political bodies as 
by individual members of lower houses, in the courts, in public 
administration, in the distribution of the large portion of the 
social wealth that is levied by the state in the form of duties and 
taxes and applied to various public services, and in the distri- 
bution of that portion, also large, of the social wealth that is con- 
centrated in banks, in great industrial speculations and in public 
charities. These activities, as a rule, fail to escape the influence 
and supervision of modern governments in Europe. 

Anyone can see that, in highly bureaucratized systems such as 
ours are, continuous pottering, interloping and officiousness on 
the part of members of lower houses must be an exceedingly 
baneful thing, and a special name has in fact been given to the 
phenomenon. The name is of fairly recent coinage but it has 
already had time to acquire derogatory connotations. It is the 
term "parliamentarism." 

6. Now certain drawbacks are unavoidable in any system that 
is based on discussion. Assemblies will talk and they will talk. 
Many speeches are bound to be inane, and in many others one 
will more readily discern a play of petty ambitions, spites and 
vanities than any great devotion to public interests. New laws 
will often be debated and passed frivolously. Filibustering will 
sometimes retard urgent decisions. Epithets will often be 
violent and not always justified. These without a doubt are 
all grave defects. But they can seem disastrously grave and of 
capital importance only to someone who is convinced that it is 
possible for a country to have a political system that is exempt 
from the weaknesses inherent in human nature itself. The 
human being's ability to conceive of what is good, of absolute 
justice, of the best way to do one's duty, and then the great 
difficulties he encounters when he comes to making his conduct 
scrupulously conform to his high ideals, inevitably result in the 


fact that no statesman and no form of government can avoid 
being the target of any number of criticisms, some of which, 
from an abstract point of view, may be quite just. But the one 
sound criterion for judging men as well as political systems is to 
compare them with others, especially with those that have 
preceded them and, whenever it is possible, with those that have 
succeeded them. 

Judged by that standard, the defects of parliamentary assem- 
blies, and the evil consequences which their control of power and 
their participation in power produce in all representative systems, 
are merest trifles as compared with the harm that would inev- 
itably result from abolishing them or stripping them of their 
influence. Under the conditions that prevail at present in 
society, the suppression of representative assemblies would 
inevitably be followed by a type of regime that is commonly 
called "absolute/* We believe it might better be termed 
"exclusively bureaucratic," since its chief characteristic is that 
it alienates from public life all political forces, all social values, 
except such as are represented in the bureaucracy. At the very 
least, it completely subordinates all other forces and values to the 
bureaucratic element. We are far from deeming it impossible 
that an ever growing disgust with "parliamentarism," and, 
especially, a fear of social democracy, wherever the latter assumes 
a menacingly revolutionary bent, may drive one people or 
another in modern Europe to adopt such an "absolute" or 
"absolutely bureaucratic" system. What we cannot admit 
is that such a step would be a wise one. We need give no long 
demonstration of that thesis in view of all that we have been 
saying (chap. V, 9-10) as to the dangers and drawbacks 
involved in giving absolute predominance to a single political 
force that is not subject to any limitation or discussion whatever. 
That we are not dealing with a purely theoretical and doctrinaire 
objection* but with an objection of great practical consequence, 
is readily proved by recalling the experiences of a number of 
countries of European civilization where the representative 
system has functioned very imperfectly. There is the example 
of czarist Russia, or perhaps better stiE, of the old regime in 
Prance. Italians, and especially South Italians, are familiar 
with conditions under the old Bourbon dynasties of the south, 
However defective one may consider the political and social 


organization in the kingdom of the Two Sicilies during the last 
years of its existence, and however low its moral status, one 
should note that King Ferdinand II was a man of fair intelli- 
gence. He was energetic and devoted, after his fashion, to the 
well-being of his people. Morally he was far superior to the 
average of his subjects. 1 

People of our time have come to take for granted the advan- 
tages of a system in which all governmental acts are subject to 
public discussion. That alone can explain why superficial 
observers among our younger generations fail to realize at a 
glance the moral ruin that would result from the downfall of 
such a system. That ruin would take the form of a series of 
violations of juridical defense, of justice, of everything that we 
commonly call "liberty"; and those violations would be far 
more pernicious than any that can be laid to the charge of eten 
the most dishonest of parliamentary governments, let alone of 
representative governments. There has been a tendency of late 
to criticize representative forms of government too much and 
too slanderously. We note, for example, in a recent pamphlet, 
an argument against parliamentarism that maintains that gov- 
ernment by parliaments is dangerous because assemblies partake 
of the nature of mobs, in that they are easily swayed by rhetoric 
and oratory and so make ill-advised and reckless decisions. 
Now, in the first place, assemblies do not govern they merely 
check and balance the men who govern, and limit their power. 
In the second place, an assembly of representatives is almost 
never a "mob," in the sense of being a haphazard, inorganic 
assemblage of human beings. Parliaments are customarily 
organized on a basis of recognized capacities and functions. 
They contain many men of long experience with public affairs, 
who are thereby safeguarded against any harm that might result 
to less well-balanced brains from an overardent or ravishing 
eloquence. Some of the drawbacks that are charged to par- 
liaments are partly offset, furthermore, by real advantages inci- 
dental to them. Failure to act promptly, for instance, is jnot 
always an evil. Oftentimes new laws require new executive 
staffs, involve new outlays of money and require new sources of 
taxation. All that is harmful, as a rule, in modern states, where 
bureaucracy and devices for taxing are already overdeveloped. 

1 Memor, La fine di un regno. 


The objections to representative systems that are commonly 
urged by extreme socialists and anarchists have a sound basis 
in an observation made above (chaps. V, 10-11; VI, 1) and 
by many other writers. The wonder is that the point has not 
been more widely noted and more earnestly heeded. Obviously, 
the members of an elective chamber are almost never chosen 
freely and spontaneously by the majority of the voters, since 
voters have only a very limited freedom of choice among the 
very few candidates who have any chance of success. Certainly 
this flagrant contradiction between the fact and the theory of the 
law, between the juridical premise of the political mandate and 
its expression in practice, is the great weakness of any represen- 
tative system. All the same, it can be taken as an argument of 
capital importance against representative systems only by those 
they are still many, alas who adopt the narrow and strictly 
limited interpretation that was given to the theory of popular 
sovereignty by Rousseau and his followers of the democratic 
school, who took popular sovereignty to mean that any govern- 
ment in any country should emanate from the numerical majority 
of its citizens. As we see things, the only demand that it is 
important, and possible, to make of a political system is that all 
social values shall have a part in it, and that it shall find a place 
for all who possess any of the qualities which determine what 
prestige and what influence an individual, or a class, is to have. 
Just as we do not combat a religion because its dogmas seem far- 
fetched, so long as it produces good results in the field of conduct, 
so the applications of a political doctrine may be acceptable so 
long as they result in an improvement in juridical defense, 
though the doctrine itself may easily be open to attack from a 
strictly scientific standpoint. It cannot be denied that the 
representative system provides a way for many different social 
forces to participate in the political system and, therefore, to 
balance and limit the influence of other social forces and the 
influence of bureaucracy in particular. If that were the only 
possible consequence, and the only possible application, of the 
doctrine of popular sovereignty, if would clearly be advantageous 
to accept it on that ground alone, however clearly we might 
realize that the ideas and sentiments which have produced that 
result have a very slim basis in scientific fact. 


The fact that real and actual majorities have a limited influence 
on the choice of representatives does not depend altogether on 
the social inequalities that at present prevail. Certainly it is 
only natural that when inequalities exist the choice of voters 
should most often fall upon those who, in the particular state 
of inequality, occupy the highest rungs on the social ladder. But 
even if the social scale were to be leveled so as to become a plane 
a hypothesis which we consider implausible there would still 
be the inevitable predominance of organized and easily organiz- 
able minorities over disorganized majorities. The mass of 
voters would therefore still be forced to choose their representa- 
tives from among candidates who would be put forward by 
groups, or committees, and these groups would be made up of 
persons who by taste and by interest would be actively devoted 
to political life. 

The soundest point, therefore, in the criticisms that for a good 
half century past have been leveled at representative govern- 
ments is the excessive and exclusive power that is given by many 
of them especially when they have degenerated into parliamen- 
tarism to the elected representatives. The prime and real root 
of the evils that are being so generally lamented lies in the facts 
that where parliamentarism is in force the ministry directing the 
vast and absorbing bureaucratic machine issues from the ranks 
of the elected chamber, and, more serious still, the fact that prime 
ministers and their cabinets stay in power as long, and only as 
long, as it pleases the majority of the elected chamber to retain 
them. Because of these two facts, discussion of governmental 
acts in our parliaments and the control that representatives! 
should exercise over governmental acts almost always go astray 
under pressure of personal ambitions and party interests. 
Because of the same facts, the natural desire of governors to 
govern well is continuously and effectively thwarted by their no 
less natural desire to serve their own personal interests, and the 
sense of professional duty in ministers and representatives is 
always balanced by all sorts of ambitions and vanities, justified 
and unjustified. Finally, the courts and the administrative 
departments become parts of a great electioneering agency with 
a corresponding cost in public money and in moral atmosphere; 
and a demand on the part of any important vote-getter upon 


the representative who needs him, or on the part of the minister 
who needs the representative, is often enough to silence any 
respect for equity and law. In a word, because of a constant, 
flagrant and manufactured contradiction between the duty and 
the interest of the man who governs, and of the man who should 
judge and limit governmental action, the bureaucracy and the 
elective elements, which should control and balance each other, 
end by corrupting and denaturing each other. 1 

7. Before examining the remedies which have been proposed 
for this state of affairs, it might be well to stop for a moment and 
consider what would happen if the same state of affairs were to 
continue unchanged for a certain length of time if, let us say, 
no substantial change were to be made for a half century or more 
in the institutions that govern so large a part of European society, 
and there were to be no new upheavals violent enough to cause 
any considerable rearrangements in personal influences and 
fortunes. Now even granting such a hypothesis, dubious as it 
might seem to us, we must reject outright an opinion that was 
once embraced by many and is now accepted by few, that 
parliamentary institutions possess within themselves a curative 
property that is able automatically to heal any evils that they 
may be responsible for in their early, inexperienced days. We 
take no stock in the myth that "the cure for liberty is more 
liberty" Liberty, like the famous lance of Achilles, healing the 
wounds that she herself inflicts. We do admit that the evils in 
question would change in nature somewhat by virtue of the 
process of stabilization or crystallization in political influences 
that occurs in all countries where the political system is not 
altered over long periods of time by foreign infiltrations or by 
inner ferments of ideas and passions. The scions of today's 
celebrities in parliament, bank and governmental positions 
would in fact attain with increasing ease the posts that are now 
occupied by their fathers, and a little world apart would come 
into being, a clique of influential families, into which it would be 
hard for newcomers to make their way. In republican Rome the 

1 On the drawbacks of parliamentarism, see Scherer, La Democratic et la 
France, Prins, La Democratic et le regime parlementaire, and Mosca, Teorica dei 
ffoverni. On the evils caused by giving excessive power to elective elements, 
see also Seaman. The American System of Government. 


more prominent families held the same public offices from 
father to son for generation after generation. In England 
in the eighteenth century, and in the first decades of the nine- 
teenth down to the Reform Bill of 1832, there were old par- 
liamentary families that inevitably appeared either at the head 
of the opposition or at the head of the cabinet. In Prance 
we see the sons, brothers and sons-in-law of politicians inheriting 
the constituencies that their elders have held. Now in the case 
we are assuming there would be an accentuation of all that. 
Because of the greater stability of the class that would be holding 
supreme political control, success would become more difficult for 
men of merit and of obscure birth, but at the same time things 
would be harder for those who emerge from the crowd and mount 
the first steps of reputation and political influence by flattering 
and whetting the lowest or maddest aspirations of the mob. 
Time also would pass the sponge of f orgetfulness over the tainted 
origins of many fortunes and many influential positions, and sons 
born to high station would be spared the rascalities and the 
moral inconsistencies which their fathers had to stoop to in order 
to attain such station. But the contradiction between the spirit 
of institutions and the men who would be called upon to represent 
them would become more and more conspicuous, and the oli- 
garchy, which would be governing in the name of the people and 
would never be able wholly to eschew the intrigues and hypoc- 
risies that are inevitable in any parliamentary government, 
would drift farther and farther away from the sentiments and 
passions of the people. And by people we do not mean just the 
masses of peasants and workingmen, but also the populous middle 
classes within whose orbit so much of the economic and intellec- 
tual activity of a country unfolds. 

So then, we should not be justified in expecting too much help 
from the natural effects of time. That help could not amount to 
very much. But looking in some other direction, it is not hard 
to imagine modifications in present institutions that might 
effectively contribute toward attenuating the evils of parliamen- 
tarism. No one, for instance, can fail to see how helpful it 
would be to increase guarantees of the independence of the courts 
by assuring to magistrates in all countries that real permanency 
of tenure which is now established in only a few, and by raising 
the social position and prestige of judges in fact and not merely 


in words. No one can fail to see how advantageous it would be 
to France, for instance, and not to Prance alone r to introduce the 
system that prevailed in imperial Germany, whereby all public 
officials of high rank were responsible for their acts to really 
independent administrative tribunals, and at the same time were 
free from the jurisdiction of ministers, and therefore of repre- 
sentatives. Financial control also could be better organized by 
increasing the independence of our auditing departments. 

Unfortunately, remedies of this sort might reduce the viru- 
lence of certain symptoms of the disease, but they would not 
eradicate the disease itself. It would be difficult, moreover, to 
procure their adoption, because the elements that are in power 
with the sanction of popular suffrage, whence they are commonly 
called democratic, now tacitly oppose, now openly protest, in 
the name of the intangible principles of popular sovereignty, 
every time a question of increasing the prestige and powers of 
institutions that limit their omnipotence comes up. In Italy 
a bill guaranteeing permanency of tenure to civil employees was 
once brought, we remember, before the old Chamber, in the days 
of our personal service there. Though it had a majority in its 
favor, it was suddenly tabled for no apparent reason and allowed 
to lapse with the closure of the session. In France things went 
even worse. Bills were passed to force a "house cleaning" in the 
courts and in the departments. This simply increased the 
subservience of the judges to the ministers, who were themselves 
tools of the parliamentary majority to begin with. 

A remedy which would be more radical and effective, and which 
has been favored by many people, would be simply to go back to 
the "constitutional" system of which the parliamentary system is 
just a transformation and, in the opinion of some, a degeneration. 

To keep our language clear, we might note that "constitutional 
governments," as that expression is used in Europe, are govern- 
ments in which prime ministers (presidents of councils of minis- 
ters, chancellors), who wield executive power, do not resign when 
they are defeated in a vote by the chamber of representatives, 
but are changed only through action by the head of the state. 
The typical case would be that of the old German government. 
A "parliamentary government," in the same technical language, 
is a government in which the prime minister and his cabinet are 
appointed by the head of the state but present their resignations 


whenever they lose the majority in the elective chamber. That 
is the almost invariable custom in England and France. In those 
countries, according to some writers, the cabinet is just a com- 
mittee of the majority of the elective chamber. A third type 
of representative government prevails in the United States. 
It might be called the "presidential" type. In it the executive 
power is not changed by vote of the lower chamber. The head 
of the state is elected by the people for a specified term. The 
United States, in addition, happens to have a system of govern- 
ment which is not centralized. 

Now, as regards Europe, a political move in the direction of a 
return to "constitutional" government would be fairly easy to 
engineer, since if one keeps to the letter of the constitutions and 
basic charters on which most modern European governments 
rest, there is no discernible difference between the parliamentary 
system and the constitutional system. In fact, all such docu- 
ments assume the existence of constitutional systems, not of 
parliamentary systems. The Portuguese constitution of 18&6 is 
the only one to distinguish between the personal sovereignty of 
the king (Art. 21), and the executive power, which is to be 
exercised by the king through his ministers (Art. 75). All other 
European constitutions declare merely that the head of the 
state exercises executive power through responsible ministers 
whom he appoints and recalls at will. In Italy, the constitution 
mentions individual ministers only, and says nothing of a cabinet 
or a prime minister. The functions of the latter have been 
determined by a series of royal decrees, the oldest of which is the 
Azeglio Decree of 1850 and the most important the Ricasoli 
Decree of March 1867. This last was abrogated a month later 
by Rattazzi, but its text was taken over in large part by the 
Depretis Decree of August 20, 1876, and by later ones. 

The parliamentary form of government came into being 
through a series of concessions that were tacitly asked for by 
public opinion and tacitly granted by the heads of states. A 
mere change in public opinion would be enough, therefore, to 
effect a return to a more genuine interpretation of the principles 
that are codified in the various constitutions. It is erroneous to 
believe, as some do, that in England parliamentary government 
has the sanction of centuries of experience. Parliamentarism 
began in England only a little earlier than the middle of the 


eighteenth century, and it did not function in full accord with 
the rules which commentators now regard as correct until the 
nineteenth century (the reigns of Queen Victoria, and her 
successors). In 1783 the younger Pitt was called to the govern- 
ment by George III against the will of the House of Commons. 
In 1835 William IV tried on his own initiative to replace Lord 
Melbourne with Robert Peel. The king was able to maintain 
his position for some months. 

In spite of all this, a political evolution in a "constitutional" 
direction would seem to be of very doubtful timeliness at present. 
In France and in other parliamentary countries on the European 
continent, the functioning of all political institutions has by now 
come to be linked with the assumption that the parliamentary 
system should function in the fact. One may question whether 
it was a good idea to pass directly from the absolute bureaucratic 
system to a parliamentary system without halting, at least for a 
time, in the strictly "constitutional" phase. However, events 
have taken that course, and one can only put up with their 
consequences. One very important consequence of the political 
theories and practices that have thus far prevailed so largely in 
Europe has been the fact that the elective chamber, certain that 
the cabinet could at any time be overthrown by an opposing vote 
on its part, has not paid enough attention to the need of limiting 
the powers and attributes of the cabinet. As a result the elective 
chamber has been very lavish in augmenting the resources, func- 
tions and prerogatives of the state, and has perhaps not very 
jealously guarded the inviolability of some of its own prerogatives 
since it has felt all along that the men in power would be instru- 
ments of the chamber majority in any event. The result has 
been that "legislation by decree/* so-called, has come to be used 
and abused in a number of parliamentary countries. 

Under these circumstances, any rapid retrogression from a 
parliamentary system to a "constitutional" system, in countries 
that are accustomed to the former, would lead to far more narrow 
and autocratic systems than prevail in countries in which pure 
constitutionalism has never been modified and all authorities 
have always functioned in conformity with the letter of the basic 
constitutions. Let us keep clear of misleading hopes and fancies, 
A development in that direction would, so to say, decapitate 
the representative chamber by stripping it of the most important 


of its functions, and meantime it would leave the all-absorbing 
bureaucratic organization intact, along with all those methods 
and habits of corruption whereby parliamentary governments 
are now able to nullify the verdicts of the ballot. The result 
would therefore be that, for a long time to come at least, par- 
liaments would be deprived of all spontaneity of action and would 
lose all political significance, and we should be left with a system 
very like bureaucratic absolutism, with the vices and drawbacks 
of which we are already familiar. Those vices and drawbacks 
would be more serious, more deeply felt and far harder to bear 
under the new system if the cabinet that happened to inaugurate 
it were to issue, as it very probably would issue, from parliamen- 
tarism itself, and so be tainted with all the corruption and 
hypocrisy that is inherent in the parliamentary system. 

8. The surest and most effective remedy for the evils of 
parliamentarism would be extensive and organic decentralization. 
That would not merely imply shifting prerogatives from central 
bureaucracies to provincial bureaucracies, and from national 
parliaments to local assemblies. It would imply transferring 
many of the functions that are now exercised by bureaucracies 
and elective bodies to the class of public-spirited citizens. In 
view of their education and their wealth such people are greatly 
superior to the average mass in ability, in independence and in 
social prestige. They do not seek posts in the civil service and, 
at present, when they do not run for parliament or when they 
fail of election, they take no part whatever in public life, unless 
they chance to belong to some provincial municipal council. 
Only by making constant use of such elements can the evils of 
parliamentarism be mitigated and a transition from a parliamen- 
tary to a constitutional system be effected without peril to public 

It is a matter of common knowledge that the defects of parlia- 
mentary government in Europe almost all come down to improper 
interference with elections to central and local elective bodies by 
bureaucracies, acting mainly through prefects appointed by the 
ministries, and to equally improper interference with the bureau- 
cracies by representatives elected to the national chambers. 

All this gives rise to a shameful and hypocritical traffic in 
reciprocal indulgences and mutual favors, which is a veritable 


running sore in most European countries. This vicious circle 
can be broken neither by increasing the powers of the bureau- 
cracy nor by enlarging the prerogatives of the elective bodies. 
It can be broken only by summoning new political elements, new 
social forces, to the service of the public weal and by perfecting 
juridical defense through the participation in public offices of all 
persons who have aptitudes for them. Such persons will not be 
salaried employees to be promoted or transferred at the caprice 
of some minister, and they will not have to depend for return to 
office on electioneering and on the approval of some local 
"machine" or some electoral busybody. 

In France, Italy and certain other countries, the idea we have 
just set forth could be applied in every province or department by 
listing all people who have college or university degrees and pay 
a specified tax. One might regard as equivalent to higher edu- 
cational degrees the rank of captain in the army, past service as a 
representative in parliament or as mayor of a town of not less 
than ten thousand inhabitants, or past service in the presidency 
of an industrial or agricultural association that has a specified 
number of members or has been working with a specified amount 
of capital. So a special class of volunteer unsalaried officials 
could be developed. Open to anyone who might acquire the 
qualifications mentioned, it would still have a certain homo- 
geneousness of social status. In view of the human being's 
natural propensity for social distinctions, it would soon develop 
cohesion and group pride, and the members would be willing and 
eager to devote a part of their time to public business. 

From the individuals belonging to such a class could be chosen, 
either by lot or otherwise and either for temporary or life tenures, 
as might seem best, referees and arbiters for petty civil cases, 
commissioners for voters* lists in national and local elections, and 
justices of the peace to deal with petty misdemeanors and other 
minor police cases. From the same class should come members 
of higher budget commissions and administrative boards, which 
would supplant the present administrative boards, where such 
exist, and which might be undei* the presidency of professional 
magistrates. The same element could, and in fact should, be 
represented in all councils of prefectures or provinces. 

We are not, of course, proposing here to set forth in detail a 
complete system of reform for the political and administrative 
institutions of European society. We are merely suggesting the 


broad lines along which reforms should be developed. We are 
merely tracing a path which, in our opinion, it will be wise and 
necessary to follow. 1 We are not unaware that a number of 
objections might be made to the immediate application of our 
idea. Though they are not all of equal weight, it might be well 
to examine them very briefly. 

It may be said that our present jury system is organized along 
the lines which we have proposed but that it is Corking out 
badly and discrediting itself more and more from day to day. 
Now one should observe, in the first place, that the charges that 
are brought against the jury system are probably somewhat 
exaggerated, in that the jury system is held to be exclusively 
responsible for abuses that are due rather to the general tendency 
of our age to be overmild in the repression of common crime. 
Against that tendency a strong reaction is bound sooner or later 
to set in. In the second place, the elements that serve on our 
juries are not altogether of the type we have recommended. 
The basis on which jury panels are made up has been greatly, 
too greatly, broadened, so that jury panels now contain a 
majority of persons who have not the intellectual training, or the 
moral background, required for the delicate tasks that juries are 
called upon to perform. 

Social organisms often function badly not because the principle 
on which they are based is fundamentally wrong but because 
the principle is badly applied. Sound, unquestionably, was the 
principle put forward by Machiavelli that the force that is 
armed for the maintenance of order in a state and to protect its 
independence ought to be "composed of citizens who lend their 
services in turn, rather than of foreigners and mercenaries who 
make a trade of war." But while a wise and prudent application 
of that principle has produced our modern standing armies, a 
careless and unsystematic application of it would have yielded 
the same results that were yielded by the Florentine "ordinance," 
which was created at the Florentine Secretary's own suggestion, 
and by the national guard which functioned, or rather failed to 
function, in Italy down to the middle of the last century. 

It may also be objected that there would be something artificial 
and arbitrary about our manner of designating the class of 
functionaries that we have proposed. We do not deny that the 

1 The idea suggested has also been developed by Turiello in his Governo e 


criticism might seem just, at a superficial glance, for, as a matter 
of fact, no human institution, no law, can avoid setting more or 
less artificial and arbitrary limits. Arbitrary and artificial is the 
limit that is set by law in fixing a person's majority at twenty 
years, eleven months and twenty-nine days. Up to that moment 
a person is considered incapable of ordering his own affairs. 
The next morning he comes of age. Laws that fix the exact 
conditions under which one can vote, in countries where universal 
suffrage does not obtain, also set artificial and arbitrary limits. 
But in the matter before us, if we look somewhat deeply into it, 
the precise opposite seems to be the case. In our private 
customs and habits we always draw very considerable distinctions 
between people of good education and people of no education, 
between people who move in good society because of their 
economic position and people who are poor and have no social 
standing. If such people are all considered as on the same footing 
from the political point of view, it is simply because arbitrary 
and conventional criteria prevail all through our political systems. 
If anything should arouse our wonder, therefore, it is that at 
present people who have the requisites mentioned are, taken 
as a class, political nonentities. We say "taken as a class " 
intentionally. Taken as individuals, the men who now hold 
elective offices of any importance members of parliaments, 
that is, provincial or departmental council members, mayors 
and city councilors in large cities come, as things stand, almost 
entirely from social strata that have a certain economic ease 
and a certain amount of education. The trouble is that, with 
rare exceptions, they come from the strata mentioned by passing 
through a ruinous process of selection downward, which bars 
from positions of major importance men who will not buy votes 
or cannot buy them, men who are of too high a character to 
sacrifice dignity to ambition, or men who are too sincere and 
honest to throw out to left and right promises which they know 
they cannot keep, or can keep only by sacrificing the public 
welfare to private advantage. 

A more real and far more serious obstacle to the practical 
execution of our plan would be the present economic situation 
in many European countries. During the eighteenth century 
and the first half of the nineteenth, the English gentry held 
almost all the offices that correspond to the ones which we would 


like to see entrusted to the class that is the counterpart of the 
English gentry in continental European society. The English 
gentry held offices in accord with a system very much like 
the one that we would introduce into continental countries, 
though during past decades the system has lost a good deal of 
ground across the Channel through the growing influence of 
modern democratic ideas. 

But England was a relatively rich country during the two 
centuries mentioned and, down to a hundred years ago, special- 
ized knowledge did not have so wide an application in the various 
branches of social activity. A certain amount of wealth and a 
certain social background were enough to establish the prestige 
of an individual, and it was not indispensable, as it virtually is 
today, that a man should have a higher education in addition to 
those other assets. As things stand at present, the demands 
of the times, and especially the prospect of losing their influence 
unless something is done about it, may induce the members of 
the wealthy class, the people who own the great fortunes, to 
shake off an indolence that in many countries has become one 
of their traditions and apply themselves to obtaining specialized 
and higher training. 

But that class has never been, and will never be, very large. 
It can never fill all the positions that we have listed, and mean- 
time the functions of the state have been broadening and broad- 
ening in Europe, so that bureaucracy today has come to absorb 
a truly vast mass of activities and duties. Today we should be 
at a loss to tell where one could find enough people to recruit the 
class of independent honorary public servants that we refer to. 
That class, therefore, has to be reinforced by another class, the 
class of merely respectable, hard-working people who live in 
moderate ease. However, this is the very class, in Europe at 
least, that is having the greatest difficulty in holding its own, 
smitten as it is, and more grievously probably than any other 
class, by the heavy, pauperizing systems of taxation that prevail 
today. In many countries the middle classes can hardly main- 
tain the margin of economic well-being which is indispensable if 
one is to acquire a higher education merely for reasons of personal 
dignity, family standing or social usefulness. They are seeking 
a higher education for strictly professional purposes, since they 
are obliged to have the diplomas required for following the 


so-called liberal professions. If that were all, the social harm 
would perhaps be endurable; but the worst of it is that those 
professions soon become overcrowded. Middle-class elements, 
therefore, turn more and more to a panting search for public 
office. Under the pressure of applicants, offices multiply both 
in national and in local administrations, occasioning new budget- 
ary outlays and opening new fields for bureaucracy to conquer. 
So a vicious circle of reciprocal causes and effects is closed: the 
impoverishment of small capitalists and holders of medium-sized 
properties by an excessive burden of taxation makes it almost 
necessary to increase taxes still more; and the very elements in 
society that in more prosperous countries would remain inde- 
pendent citizens, and constitute a most effective balance to 
bureaucratic influence, are themselves transformed into profes- 
sional bureaucrats. 

But even these economic difficulties might gradually be over- 
come, and a new broad-based aristocracy might be formed of a 
numerous class that would contain almost all the moral and intel- 
lectual energies of a nation, and be the most available counter- 
balance to bureaucratic, financial and electoral oligarchies. 
Unfortunately, a far more serious and intractable obstacle is 
raised by the democratic philosophy which is still so much in 
vogue and which recognizes no political act, no political pre- 
rogative, as legitimate unless it emanates directly or indirectly 
from popular suffrage. The democratic current, as we have 
seen, has been an important factor in curtailing the functions 
of the English gentry during past decades and handing them 
over to elective elements or to bureaucracy. Now democracy 
would exert all the force that it can still muster to prevent any 
evolution in the opposite direction from taking place on the 
European continent. At bottom, therefore, the greatest diffi- 
culty that stands in the way of finding remedies for the evils of 
parliamentarism and applying them arises wholly in the frame 
of mind that prevails in the societies which are living under 
parliamentary systems in other words, in the doctrines and 
opinions that are most widely accepted by them. In our quest 
for such remedies we end by finding ourselves confronted with 
the very order of ideas and passions in which social democracy 


1. In beginning our examination of social democracy, it will 
perhaps be advisable to consider a bit of history. In a number 
of religious and social movements that have eventually acquired 
prominence, it is hard to determine the exact share that the first 
founder and his early associates had in the twists that those 
movements developed in practice. It is often not the easiest 
thing in the world to verify the birth certificates of the first 
masters and to tell just what traits were peculiar to them at the 
start. The personality of Sakyamuni is draped in the vagueness 
and uncertainty of Buddhist legend. Perhaps we shall never 
know just what part Manes, the founder of Manichaeism, played 
in beliefs, which later on, at the end of the fifth century A.D., 
brought on an attempt at something like a social revolution in 
Persia. But when present-day socialism dawned, the world was 
living in a far riper intellectual period. The new doctrines, and 
personal recollections regarding them, were at once gathered into 
books, which were published in thousands of copies, and they 
were so well preserved for posterity that few of them probably 
will ever be destroyed or lost. The beginnings of the reform 
doctrines that are so widely current in our day are therefore well 
known and can be followed step by step. Going back to their 
not very distant origins, one can easily make sure that Voltaire 
and his followers, although they may have had an important 
part in destroying the old world, almost never referred to any 
new social system, or systems, that might replace the one they 
knew. The real parent of the sentiments, the passions, the 
manner of looking at social life and appraising it, that resulted 
practically in the birth and growth of social democracy, was 
Jean Jacques Rousseau (above, chap. X, 4). 

It would of course be easy to find in China, in India, in the 
Persia of the Sassanids, in ancient Egypt, in a few Greek and 
Roman writers, in the prophets of Israel, in the reformers of 


Mohammedanism, in the early Christian Fathers and in the 
heresiarchs of the Middle Ages and the beginning of the modern 
era, ideas, sentiments, scattered opinions and sometimes com- 
plete systems of beliefs which are amazingly similar to the 
doctrines of modern socialism. 1 

One of the most interesting of the ancient Chinese experiments 
was launched by Wang Mang, who ruled the empire about the 
beginning of our Christian era. Wang Mang tried to revive the 
ancient Chinese agrarian communities, which were something 
like the Russian mir. He forbade any private individual to 
possess more than a trin, or twelve acres of land. Better known 
is the evidently collectivist experiment initiated in 1069 by the 
minister Wang An-shih, which made the state sole proprietor of 
all land and all capital. Both of these efforts had been preceded 
by periods of discontent, and both were provoked by destructive 
criticism aimed at the institutions then functioning. Needless 
to say both of them failed lamentably. After Wang Mang's 
reform had come to grief, a contemporary philosopher, grievously 
disappointed, it would seem, wrote that "not even Yii [said to 
be the founder of the first Chinese dynasty] could have succeeded 
in reviving communal ownership of property. For everything 
changes. Rivers disappear from their beds, and all that time 
erases vanishes forever/* 2 

That such anticipations of modern ideas should have been 
numerous is natural enough, for the sentiments on which socialism 
proper, as well as anarchism, so largely rests are in no sense 
peculiar to the generations that are at present living in Europe 
and America. The application of a critical, destructive spirit 
to the analysis of contemporary social institutions, for the 
purpose of supplying a basis at least ostensibly rational and 
systematic for demanding political recognition of the sentiments 
referred to, is also an ancient and altogether natural phenomenon. 
It may arise in any human society that has reached a certain 
level of maturity. 

This does not mean, however, that contemporary socialism 
descends in a direct and unbroken moral and intellectual line 

1 For particulars on socialist thought in other eras and other civilizations, see 
Cognetti de Martiis, Socialismo antico. 

*Huc, L' Empire chinois. See also Varigny, "Un Socialiste chinois au XI 
sifcele"; E6clus, Nouvelle gfographie universelle, vol. VIII, pp. 577 f. 


from any of the similar doctrines which flourished in one part of 
the world or another in ages more or less remote and then 
perished, leaving more or less perceptible traces of their propa- 
ganda upon human history. The present-day movements of 
socialist and anarchist reform do not go back to any religious 
principle. They rest on purely rationalistic foundations and 
are a spontaneous outgrowth of the intellectual and mpral 
conditions that prevailed in Europe in the eighteenth and 
nineteenth centuries. 

Socialism and anarchism have a common seed in the doctrine 
which proclaims that man is good by nature and that society 
makes him bad, overlooking the fact that the structure of a 
society is nothing more than a resultant of the compromising 
and compensating and balancing that take place among the 
varied and very complex human instincts. Now the first to 
formulate the doctrine clearly, and the man who was its most 
famous champion, was Rousseau. In his works he not only 
explicitly formulates the notion that absolute justice must be 
the basis of all political institutions, and condemns, therefore, 
all sorts of political and economic inequality; he also is at no 
pains to conceal the feelings of rancor toward fortune's favorites, 
toward the rich and the powerful, which make up such a large 
part of the polemical baggage of socialists past and present. 

Janet writes: "From Rousseau comes that hatred of property 
and that rage at inequalities in wealth which are such terrible 
assets for these modern sects." 1 It should be noted, however, 
that Janet, as well as other writers who soundly regard Rousseau 
as the intellectual parent of modern subversive theories, quotes 
only the well-known passage at the beginning of the second part 
of Rousseau's essay on inequality. 2 Viewed independently of 
the rest of the work, the passage is more declamatory than 
conclusive. It reads: 

The first man who fenced in a plot of ground and then thought of 
saying "This is mine," and found somebody who was fool enough to 
believe him, was the real founder of civilized society. How many 
crimes, how many wars, how much slaughter, misery, horror, would have 
been spared the human race, had some one torn down that fence, or 
filled in that trench, and cried to his neighbors: "Do not heed that 

1 "Les Origines du socialisme contemporain." 

2 Discours aur Vorigine et Us fondements de Vinbgalitt parmi les homme*. 


impostor! You are lost if you forget that the soil belongs to nobody and 
that its fruits belong to all." 

It might be objected that in the same essay Rousseau observes 
that a division of lands (leur partage) was a necessary consequence 
of their cultivation. That would be recognizing, in a sense, that 
there can be no civilization without private property. 

The most conclusive passages, we believe, come four or five 
pages further along. Rousseau gives a long description, after 
his fashion, of man's slow and gradual development from savage, 
animal-like living to civilized living, and notes that the more 
significant moments in that evolution were the discovery of 
metals and the discovery of agriculture. He believes, further- 
more, that agriculture, and therefore private property and 
inequality in fortunes, preceded any social organization at all, 
and that there must, therefore, have been a period of anarchy 
when everybody was fighting everybody else and when the rich 
man had most to lose. At that time (allowing Rousseau to 
speak for himself), 

alone against all, unable in view of mutual jealousies to combine with 
his equals against foes who stood united by a common hope of plunder, 
harassed by his need, the rich man conceived the shrewdest plan that 
has ever crept into the human mind: He would use in his own favor the 
very power of those who were attacking him. He would make his 
adversaries his defenders. He would imbue them with different 
principles, which would be as much in his favor as natural right had been 
against him. 

Rousseau goes on to relate how, at the suggestion of the wealthy, 
human beings consented to organize a government with laws 
which to all appearances safeguarded the life and property of 
all, but which in reality were of benefit only to the powerful. 
Finally he concludes: 

Such was, or must have been, the origin of society and of laws, which 
laid new impediments upon the weak man and gave new power to the 
rich man, which destroyed natural freedom beyond recall, crystallized 
the law of property and inequality forever, turned shrewd usurpation 
into an unimpeachable right, and for the profit of a few ambitious men 
subjected the whole human race for all time to toil, servitude and 


No very profound knowledge of contemporary socialist and 
anarchist literature is required to perceive that the passages 
quoted contain in fully developed form the concept of the class 
struggle, in other words the idea that government is instituted 
for the benefit of a single class. They also contain in germ all 
the assumptions and sentiments that underlie the collectivist 
principle, which would abolish private ownership of land, capital 
and the instruments of labor in order to prevent the exploitation 
of one class for the benefit of another class* More logically still 
they lead to the anarchist principle that every sort of political 
organization whatsoever should be abolished in order that rulers 
may be deprived of all means of exploiting the ruled and of 
governing them by violence and fraud. 

Rousseau's work on the origin of inequality among itoen was 
published in 1754. In it he planted seeds which were to find an 
amazingly fertile environment and enjoy a most luxuriant 
growth. Just a year later, in 1755, the natural implications of 
Rousseau's principles were developed in a book called Code de 
la nature. Though it was uncouth in form and incoherent in 
substance, this Code was long attributed to Diderot. Its actual 
author was Morelly. It outlined quite clearly a program for 
radical social reform in a collectivist direction. Morelly main- 
tains, in the Code, that there should be three fundamental laws 
in every society: (1) There should be no private property. (2) 
Every citizen should be a public official. (3) Every citizen 
should contribute to the public welfare. Starting with these 
three postulates, Morelly argues that the state should feed every 
individual and that every individual should work for the state, 
and he draws a picture of a society organized according to those 
ideals. As a precursor and pioneer of modern collectivist ideas, 
Morelly is perhaps entitled to greater respect than he has had, at 
least from his coreligionists. 

In 1776 the Abb6 Mably, an enlightened aristocrat who was 
a fairly well-known writer in his day, reached the conclusion that 
private property should be abolished. The Abb6's doctrines 
were foreshadowed for the first time in his Doutes proposSs aux 
philosophes Gconomistes, a work published in 1768 in rejoinder 
to a book published the year before by Le Mercier de La Rivifere, 
JJOrdre naturel e essentiel des sotiM&s politiques. Mably's second 
work on the subject of land communism was his De la legislation 


ou Prindpes des lots. There he formulates an imaginary objec- 
tion that, if a division of land were to be made, inequality would 
shortly be reestablished. His answer was: "It is not a question 
of land division, but of community of lands. It is not a question 
of redistributing property. Property has to be abolished." It 
is significant that Rousseau often accused Mably of plagiarism. 

A close parallel to Proudhon's famous phrase, "Property is 
theft (La proprUtS c'est le vol) 9 " first appeared in a pamphlet 
that was published by Brissot de Warville in 1778, under the title 
of Recherches philosophiques sur la propri&tt et sur le vol. There 
we find the words "La propri&U exclusive est un vol." Brissot 
became one of the outstanding leaders of the Girondist party 
during the Revolution, heading the faction called the Brissotins. 
He was often in trouble because of the book and the phrase. 

Whether the men who directed the great revolutionary move- 
ment in France at the end of the eighteenth century were or 
were not tinged with socialist doctrines has long been hotly 
debated. Prior to 1848, Louis Blanc held that they were, and 
Quinet, relying principally on the memoirs of Baudot, a member 
of the Convention, held that they were not. It seems evident to 
us that socialism is a necessary consequence of pure democracy, 
if by democracy we mean a denial of any social superiority that 
is not based upon the free consent of majorities. On this point 
we wholly agree with Stahl, and wholly disagree with Tocque- 
ville and others. But to say that a consequence is necessary 
is not to say that it is going to follow immediately. It is natural 
that a certain time should elapse between the attempt to realize 
absolute equality in the political field and the attempt to achieve 
equality in the economic field, since experience alone can teach 
that political equality is altogether illusory unless it leads to 
economic equality. 

During the period between 1789 and 1793, the theories that 
officially prevailed in the various legislative and constituent 
assemblies were what socialists of today would call "individual- 
istic" or "bourgeois." That was partly because experience was 
wanting and partly because socialist doctrines were still in their 
infancy and had not yet been carefully worked out and embodied 
in systems that were scientific in appearance at least. More 
important still, if the leaders of the active revolutionaries were 
soldiers, they were satisfied with changing from sergeants to 


generals in a few years' time; and if they were lawyers they were 
satisfied to save their necks from the guillotine and become 
"legislators," "proconsuls," "committeemen on public safety," 
and what not, or at the very least high government officials. 
Soldiers or lawyers, or just peasants, all of them were as content 
as could be if they could buy the private property of an Emigre 
from the state with a fistful of fiat money* The truth is that 
even if "bourgeois" or "capitalist" doctrines prevailed, the 
instincts and passions that were then, rife were of quite another 
color, and if war was not waged officially on wealth and private 
property in general, it was waged, in general with great effective- 
ness, on property owners and wealthy men. It would be a 
simple matter to mention facts and quote speeches from those 
days that show perfect accord with the aspirations of revolution- 
ary socialists of half a century later and of our time. 

In his newspaper, L'Ami du peuple, Marat wrote that Their 
Worthies, the grocers, the drummers, the salesclerks, were con- 
spiring against the Revolution with the gentlemen on the Right 
of the Convention and with gentlemen of wealth, that they 
ought to be arrested as suspects, every one, and that they could 
be turned into first class sans-culottes, "by leaving them nothing 
to cover their behinds with." Cambon proposed a forced loan 
of a million from the rich to be secured by mortgages on the 
property of emigres. A decree of September 3, 1793, confiscated 
all incomes over 14,000 francs a year under guise of a forced 
loan. There were men in the Convention who considered wealth 
a sin and denounced any man as a bad citizen who could not be 
satisfied with an income of 3,000 francs a year. The Con- 
ventionist Laplanche was sent on a mission to the Department 
of the Cher and reported on his work as follows to the Jacobins: 
"Everywhere I made terror the order of the day. Everywhere 
I exacted contributions from the rich and aristocratic. ... I 
threw all federalists out of office, put all suspects in jail, and 
upheld the sans-culottes by force of arms." In the Jacobin 
club itself a proposal was made to confiscate all foodstuffs and 
distribute them among the people, and when manufacturers 
closed their mills, Chaumette, the attorney general, proposed 
that the republic take over all factories and raw materials. 

Nevertheless, when the revolutionary movement was already 
in its decline, we find an attempt to realize absolute equality 


and end oppression and privilege by abolishing private property 
and concentrating all wealth in the hands of the state. That 
was the goal that the famous Caius Gracchus Babeuf set out to 
attain. The "Conspiracy of the Equals," which he headed, 
gathered in all surviving Jacobins who thought they could find in 
socialist ideas which, as we have seen, were not unknown at 
the end of the eighteenth century a force that might revive 
the Revolution, which was showing signs of petering out either 
into anarchy or into Caesarism. 

His conspiracy frustrated, Babeuf was guillotined in 1797. 
A comrade of his, an Italian named Buonarroti, supplies a link 
between the socialists of the eighteenth century and those of the 
first half of the nineteenth. Buonarroti clearly expounded the 
doctrines of his master in a book that appeared in 1826, De la 
conspiration pour Vfyaliti, dite de Babeuf. It contains all the 
essentials of the doctrine that the state should become sole 
proprietor of land and capital. It is interesting that Buonarroti 
later became one of the founders of the Carbonari, and in fact 
played a leading role in all the activities of secret societies that 
kept Prance and Italy continually on edge after the fall of 
Napoleon's empire. 

Buonarroti's book had a great influence on the intellectual 
training of all the revolutionary conventicles that formed in 
Prance shortly before and especially after the revolution of 1830. 
Then passions and thoughts began to stir in the direction of a 
radical reform of society, and the atmosphere for the first time 
became definitely socialistic. Fourier and Saint-Simon really 
antedate Buonarroti by a few years. Fourier had published his 
TMorie des quatre movements as early as 1808, but the Assotia- 
tion domestique et agricole did not appear until 18 and the 
Nouveau monde industriel not until 189. Saint-Simon's Nou~ 
veau Christianisme came out in 18&4. He died the year follow- 
ing. As for Saint-Simon, his last publication did in a sense 
come pretty close to socialism on the sentimental side, and the 
Saint-Simonianism that flourished after 1880 helped to prepare 
the ground for socialism proper. It actually anticipated many 
of the views which later were adopted by socialism. All the 
same, the thought that Saint-Simon develops in his earlier 
publications is too vast, too profound and too original to allow 
him to be mentioned outright as merely one of the many writers 


who heralded the rise of social democracy as we know it (below* 
chap. XII, 1). 

During the ten or fifteen years after 1880, socialism was 
enriched by the publications of Pierre Leroux, Louis Blanc and 
Proudhon, not to mention lesser lights. 1 If one looks attentively, 
one can detect in the rich blossoming of reform ideas that took 
place in France between 18&0 and 1848 all the varieties and 
gradations of present-day socialism. There is the "legalitarian" 
socialism of Fourier, and the revolutionary socialism of Blanc. 
Proudhon has all the seeds of modern anarchism. Buchez 2 will 
do for Christian socialism. If we go looking for indirect methods 
of propaganda, we may note a now forgotten "proletarian" 
novel, the Voyage en Icarie by Cabet, which appeared in 1840 
and made a great sensation. In it Cabet imagines that he has 
arrived in a country where there is no private property and 
describes the bliss that men enjoy under such a system. About 
fifty years later Bellamy cut his Looking Backward out of virtually 
the same cloth. Icaria, however, was a not altogether imaginary 
utopia. Cabet set up his ideal state in the United States, first 
in Texas and later at Nauvoo, Illinois, on the Mississippi River. 
He died in St. Louis. 

. But suppose a close reading of socialist writers before 1848, 
almost all of them French, has convinced one that they left 
little or nothing for the Germans who followed after them to 
invent. Suppose we perceive that Marx did nothing but develop 
systematically, in a more strictly logical form and with a broader 
knowledge of classical economics and of Hegelian philosophy 
too, principles that had already been formulated by Buonarroti, 
Leroux, Blanc and, especially, Proudhon. Still it will be true 
that the socialism of today is a far more disquieting social 
phenomenon than the socialism of sixty years ago. It is immeas- 
urably more widespread, for one thing. Instead of being con- 

1 Leroux published De VfyaliU in 1838, Refutation de I'Sclectisme in 1839, 
Malihus et les foonomistes in 1840, De I'humaniti in 1840. He had begun to write 
on a newspaper, Le Globe, as early as 1832. Blanc's Organisation du travail 
appeared in 1840. As for Proudhon one notes the MSmoire sur la propriStS, 
1840; the Motion de Vordre dans Vhumaniie, 1843; the Systdme des contradiction* 
economiques ou Philosophic de la miaere, 1846. 

2 Essai d'un traite complet de phUosophie au point de me du catholidsme et du 

Much of Buchez's writing appeared in a newspaper, L* Atelier, 


fined almost entirely to the great cities of France, and more 
particularly to Paris, it now embraces almost the whole of Europe, 
and it has invaded the United States and Australia. Call it a 
good, call it an evil, it is at any rate common to all peoples of 
European civilization. 

Nor has it gained any less in depth than in surface. Revolu- 
tionary instincts and noble aspirations once found an objective 
and an outlet in the strictly democratic movement, or in various 
movements for the liberation of one subject nationality or 
another. But now representative governments on broad-based 
suffrage have been introduced almost everywhere they have 
even had time to result in the disappointments of parliamentar- 
ism. Italian and German national unities have for some time 
been virtually complete, and the Polish question seems to all 
intents and purposes to be settled. Now all disinterested 
enthusiasms are concentrated in aspirations toward substantial 
reforms in the prevailing social order. A time has come when 
many souls are athirst for justice and are welling with a hope of 
being able to quench the thirst very soon. No longer a lonely 
thinker, a solitary man of heart, would be he who "considered all 
the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the 
tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and 
on the side of their oppressors there was power, but they had no 
comforter." And the author of Ecclesiastes continues: "Where- 
fore I praised the dead which are already dead more than the 
living which are yet alive. Yea, better is he than both they, 
which hath not yet been, who hath not seen the evil work that 
is done under the sun." 1 It is instructive to note that this 
melancholy, realistic attitude toward society is to be found in 
the writings of other thinkers who lived among peoples of ancient 
culture. It is undoubtedly the product of a refinement of moral 
sense, and of a lucid perception of realities, which only a long 
period of civilization makes possible, and then only in a few men 
of lofty minds and noble hearts. 

With the general perception of the evil comes confidence in the 
possibility of promptly alleviating it. The early Christians 
believed in the imminent coming of the kingdom of God, which 
would banish all evil from the world, reward the good and punish 
the wicked. That faith finds its counterpart in a conviction 

1 4:1-3. 


that is now spread abroad through all strata in society, that most 
of the iniquities that are to be found in the world can be ascribed 
to the manner in which society is at present organized, and that 
they could be avoided if only those who hold power over society 
were not tools of the rich and the powerful, and would consent to 
interfere effectively in behalf of the oppressed. This persuasion 
has now conquered many minds and is warming many hearts. 
There is a widespread conviction that there is a social question, 
that important reforms in property rights, in the family, in our 
whole industrial and capitalistic system, must inevitably and 
shortly come about, and governors and sovereigns do little else 
than make efforts and promises in that direction. Now all 
that contributes to creating an intellectual and moral environ- 
ment in which militant socialism lives, prospers and spreads 

In this favoring environment two very populous political 
organizations have grown up about most revered masters and 
organizers, each of them with its aspirations, its platforms, its 
fairly definite and defined doctrines two real churches, one 
might almost say. Tlie one is made up of believers in collec- 
tivism, the other of believers in anarchy. Both, like religious 
communities, have a certain urge toward universality. If they 
do not send out missionaries to convert the heathen, they do 
spread their propaganda abroad among almost all the nations of 
European civilization. And in one of them more particularly 
in the collectivist organization in spite of frequent schisms and 
the rise of numerous heresiarchs, which are phenomena common 
to all organizations that are young and full of life, we see the 
leaders and inspirers meeting frequently in national and world 
councils, discussing dogma, discipline, the party's "line," and 
fixing norms and methods that straightway are universally 
accepted by masses of believers. 

3. Succinctly to state the postulates of collectivism is easy 
enough. They are now familiar to everybody. In the old 
parliament in Germany the collectivist movement took the name 
"social democracy," which we regard as the designation scien- 
tifically most apt for it. According to the doctrine most gen- 
erally recognized as orthodox, the state represents the collectivity 
of citizens. It is sole proprietor of all tools of production, 


whether they be capital proper, machinery or land. The state 
is the sole director and the sole distributor of economic products. 
Since there are neither owners of real property nor private 
capitalists, everybody works for the benefit of society as a whole; 
and the social organism provides for all, either according to the 
needs of each individual, as a simpler and older formula would 
have it, or according to the work that the individual does, as a 
newer formula that is now more generally accepted contends. 
To be strictly accurate, followers of the first formtlla are known 
among socialists as "communists," while those who follow the 
other, which is much more in vogue among the many disciples of 
Marx, are technically styled "collectivists." As a matter of 
fact, many collectivists grant that communism is the ideal goal, 
but it has the drawback, they think, of not being immediately 
realizable. As will be apparent farther along, while collectivism 
is a concession that reformers make to the well-known frailty or, 
better, selfishness, of human nature, it greatly complicates the 
system of social regeneration which collectivists are trying to 
bring about and offers the greater number of sound arguments 
to their opponents, the communists. 

The whole machine so organized is administered and directed 
by leaders who represent the people. The function of the 
leaders is to dole out to everyone the type of work for which he is 
best fitted, to see to it that the products of labor and social 
capital are not squandered or unduly exploited, and at the same 
time to distribute to every individual, with perfect equity and 
justice, the exact share that is due him either as the product 
of his own labor as honestly and infallibly calculated, or for his 
own needs, of which those in control will, with the same imparti- 
ality, furnish the exact estimate. 

Suppose now we ignore the violence and the civil strife which 
may justly be considered indispensable to carrying out this 
program, and which certainly would only intensify hatreds, 
rancors and greeds, cleave populations into victors and van- 
quished, put the latter at the mercy of the former and so unleash 
the wickedest of human instincts. Let us go so far as to assume 
that the reforms mentioned have come about peacefully and by 
common agreement, or that revolving centuries have quenched 
the last echo of the fratricidal wars with which the new type of 
social organization has been inaugurated. Let us go on and 


assume that the productivity and total wealth of society have 
not been appreciably diminished by the new system, as the 
economists insist and have, in our opinion, indisputably proved. 
We are even ready to grant that the ethical side of the social 
problem should have absolute predominance over the strictly 
economic side, and that the little that is well divided should be 
preferable to the much that is badly divided. 

But, after conceding that much, it is our right and our duty 
to ask a question on our side, and we shall call it "political," 
because it is the broadest, the most comprehensive question 
imaginable; because it arises of its own accord from a compre- 
hensive examination of every type of social relation; because its 
solution should interest orthodox economists no less than 
socialists, capitalists no less than workers, the rich no less than 
the poor; because it is the first question, the most important 
question, for all noble hearts, all unprejudiced minds which set 
above every creed and every interest of party the dispassionate 
search for a social adjustment that shall represent the greatest 
good that it is within the power of our poor humanity to attain. 
It is our right and our duty to ask whether, with the realization 
of the communist (or of the collectivist) system, justice, truth, 
love and reciprocal toleration among men, will hold a larger place 
in the world than they now occupy; whether the strong, who will 
always be at the top, will be less overbearing; whether the weak, 
who will always be at the bottom, will be less overborne. That 
question we now answer decidedly with the word "no." 

The late Saverio Scolari once said that it was impossible for 
the student of the historical or political sciences to foresee exactly 
what is going to happen in human societies in any future, near 
or remote, because some part in human events will always be due 
to what is called "chance," and we shall never be able to calculate 
that factor in advance. He added, however, that we are much 
better able to foresee what is never going to happen, the negative 
reasoning having a secure foundation in what we know of human 
nature, which will never allow anything actually to occur that is 
fundamentally repugnant to it. This second dictum seems much 
to the point in the case we now have before us, and its applica- 
tion should be all the easier since to a great extent we are con- 
cerned not with foreseeing what will or will not happen but 
simply with noting what has happened and is happening every- 


day. The much that we know from experience makes it easy 
to establish the nature of the little that some still consider 

Communist and collectivist societies would beyond any doubt 
be managed by officials. Let us assume, for the best case, that 
in accord with the norms of social democracy, they would be 
elected exclusively by universal suffrage. We have already 
seen how political powers function when they are exclusively, or 
almost exclusively, in the hands of so-called "people's choices." 
We know that majorities have only the mere right of choosing 
between a few possible candidates, and that they cannot, there- 
fore, exercise over them anything more than a spasmodic, limited 
and often ineffective control. We know that the selection of 
candidates is itself almost always the work of organized minorities 
who specialize by taste or vocation in politics and electioneering, 
or else the work of caucuses and committees whose interests are 
often at variance with the interests of the majority. We know 
the ruses that the worst of them use to nullify or falsify the 
verdicts of the polls to their advantage. We know the lies they 
tell, the promises they make and betray and the violence they do 
in order to win or to wheedle votes. 

But communists and collectivists may object that all this 
happens because of the present capitalistic organization of 
society, because great landowners and owners of great fortunes 
now have a thousand means, direct or indirect, for influencing 
and buying the votes of the poor, and that they use them to 
make universal suffrage a sham and assure political dominion 
to themselves. To avoid those drawbacks if for nothing else, 
they might argue, we should change the social order radically. 

Those who reason in that manner forget the most important 
detail in the problem. They forget that even in societies 
organized as they propose there would still be those who would 
manage the public wealth and then the great mass of those who 
are managed. Now the latter would have to be satisfied with 
the share that was allotted to them. The administrators of the 
social republic would also be its political heads, and they would 
undoubtedly be far more powerful than the ministers and 
millionaires we know today. If a man has the power to constrain 
others to a given task, and to fix the allotments of material 
enjoyments and moral satisfactions that will be the recompense 


for the performance of the task, he will always be a despot over 
his fellows, however much he may be curbed by laws and regula- 
tions, and he will always be able to sway their consciences and 
their wills to his advantage. 1 

All the lying, all the baseness, all the violence, all the fraud 
that we see in political life at present are used in intrigues to 
win votes, in order to get ahead in public office or simply in 
order to make money fast by unscrupulous means. Under a 
collectivist system everything of that sort would be aimed 
at controlling the administration of the collective enterprise. 
There would be one goal for the greedy, the shrewd and the 
violent, one direction for the cabkls and the cliques which would 
form to the detriment of the gentler, the fairer, the more sincere. 
Such differences as there would be would all be in favor of our 
present society; for to destroy multiplicity of political forces, that 
variety of ways and means by which social importance is at 
present acquired, would be to destroy all independence and all 
possibility of reciprocal balancing and control. As things are 
today, the office clerk can at least laugh at the millionaire. A 
good workman who can earn a decent living with his own hands 
has nothing to fear from the politician, the department secretary, 
the deputy or the minister. Anyone who has a respectable 
position as the owner of a piece of land, as a businessman, as a 
member of a profession, can hold his head high before all the 
powers of the state and all the great landlords and financial 
barons in the world. Under collectivism, everyone will have to 
kowtow to the men in the government. They alone can dispense 
favor, bread, the joy or sorrow of life. One single crushing, all- 
embracing, all-engrossing tyranny will weigh upon all. The great 
of the earth will be absolute masters of everything, and the 
independent word of the man who fears nothing and expects noth- 
ing from them will no longer be there to curb their extravagances. 

In his Progress and Poverty Henry George many times quotes 
an ancient Hindu document which held that elephants insanely 
proud and parasols embroidered in gold were the fruits of private 
ownership of the land. 2 In our day civilization is much more 
sophisticated than that, and life more many-sided. Wealth is 
producing a great deal besides elephants and parasols. But, 

1 See above, chap. V, 9. 

2 Book V, epigraph (p. 262), quoting Sir William Jones. 


after .all, the privileges that wealth confers on those who possess 
it come down to the fact that wealth makes the pursuit of intel- 
lectual pleasures easier and the enjoyment of material pleasures 
more abundant. It provides satisfactions for vanity and pride 
and, especially, power to manipulate the wills of others while 
leaving one's own independence intact. The heads of a com- 
munist or collectivist republic would control the will of others 
more tyrannically than ever; and since they would be able to 
distribute privations or favors as they chose, they would have 
the means to enjoy, perhaps more hypocritically but in no less 
abundance, all the material pleasures, all the triumphs of vanity, 
which are now perquisites of the powerful and the wealthy. 
Like these, and even more than these, they would be in a position 
to degrade the dignity of other men. 

These criticisms, it will be noted, bear both on the postulates 
of communism and on the postulates of collectivism, and perhaps 
on the former more than on the latter; but, from the standpoint 
of the criticisms, collectivism is considerably worse placed than 
communism. If orthodox social democracy were to triumph, 
those in control would not only have the right to fix for everybody 
the kind of work to be done and the place where it was to be 
done but, since there would be no automatic measure of reward, 
they would have to specify the return on every type of work. 
That they would have far greater latitude for arbitrary decisions 
and favoritism is obvious. Nor would that be all. Collectivism 
does not allow any accumulation of private wealth in the form 
of industrial capital, but only in kind, in the form of commodities 
of pure consumption. It would certainly always be possible to 
distribute such commodities either gratis or for a consideration, 
and so electoral corruption, and the many other forms of corrup- 
tion that feature bourgeois societies, would reappear. 

4. The strength of the socialist and anarchist doctrines lies 
not so much in their positive as in their negative aspects in 
their minute, pointed, merciless criticism of our present organiza- 
tion of society. 

From the standpoint of absolute justice the distribution of 
wealth that has prevailed in the past, and still prevails, leaves 
plenty of room for many very serious criticisms in that it legit- 
imizes great and flagrant injustices. That fact is so evident that 


even to state it seems quite platitudinous. One does not need 
the piercing keenness of Proudhon, the long algebraic demon- 
strations of Marx, the trenchant, savage irony of Lassalle, to 
prove what so readily strikes the eye of anyone who looks 
even of the most superficial and untaught observer. Individual 
enjoyment of the good things of life has not been proportioned 
even to the value, let alone to the difficulty, of the work that is 
done to produce them. We see in economic life what we see 
every day in political life, in scientific life, in all fields of social 
activity: that success is almost never proportionate to merit. 
Between the service that an individual renders to society and the 
reward that he receives there is almost always a wide, and often a 
glaring, discrepancy. 

To fight socialism by trying to deny, or merely to extenuate, 
that fact is to take one's stand on a terrain on which defeat is 
certain. Orthodox economists have often tried that. They 
have sought to show that private ownership of land and capital 
not only is beneficial, or even indispensable, to life in society, 
but also answers the absolute requirements of morality and 
justice. Along that line they have opened their flank to a very 
powerful attack. Precarious, nay hopeless, in the best case and 
in any age, their thesis becomes patently absurd in our day, when 
everybody who has eyes can see by what means great fortunes 
are often built up. 

The whole objection that can be offered, and should be offered, 
to the destructive criticism of the socialists is summed up in a 
truth that may seem cruel. We have already stated it, but it is 
helpful, it is moral, to proclaim it aloud over and over again. No 
social organization can be based exclusively upon the sentiment of 
justice, and no social organization will ever fail to leave much to be 
desired from the standpoint of absolute justice. It is natural 
that things should be that way. In his private and public 
conduct no individual is ever guided exclusively by his sense of 
justice. He is guided by his passions and his needs. Only the 
man who cuts himself off from the world, who renounces all 
ambition for wealth, power, worldly vanity, for expressing his 
own personality in any way whatever, can flatter himself that his 
acts are inspired by a sentiment of absolute justice. The man 
of action, in political life or in business life, whether he be 
merchant or property owner, professional worker or laborer, 


priest of God or apostle of socialism, always tries to be a success, 
and Ms conduct, therefore, will always be a compromise, witting 
or unwitting, between his sense of justice and his interests. Of 
course, not all people compromise to the same degree or in the 
same ways. The type and extent of compromises depend upon 
the person's greater or lesser selfishness, on his sense of delicacy, 
on the strength of his moral convictions. These traits vary 
widely from individual to individual. 

Human sentiments being what they are, to set out to erect a 
type of political organization that will correspond in all respects 
to the ideal of justice, which a man can conceive but can never 
attain, is a Utopia, and the Utopia becomes frankly dangerous 
when it succeeds in bringing a large mass of intellectual and 
moral energies to bear upon the achievement of an end that will 
never be achieved and that, on the day of its purported achieve- 
ment, can mean nothing more than triumph for the worst people 
and distress and disappointment for the good. Burke remarked 
more than a century ago that any political system that assumes 
the existence of superhuman or heroic virtues can result only in 
vice and corruption. 1 

The doctors of socialism declare that all, or at least most, 
human imperfections, all or most of the injustices that are now 
being committed under the sun, do not result from ethical traits 
that are natural to our species but from traits that are thrust 
upon us by our present bourgeois organization of society. One 
such doctor stated explicitly in a famous book that "if we change 
social conditions in accord with the goals that socialism sets for 
itself, we shall get a radical change in human nature." 2 

1 The view that the destructive side of socialist criticism derives from ascribing 
to our present organization of society evils and injustices that are inherent in 
human nature has been recognized by many writers. Schaffle alludes to it 
repeatedly in Die Quintessenz dea Soziolismua. More definitely still the Italian 
historian of law, Icilio Vanni, wrote in 1890: "Socialism old and new, rationalistic 
or evolutionary as it may be, aims at bottom to realize in this poor human world 
an order that is absolutely just. In that it betrays its metaphysical character." 
In his L' Europe politique et sociole, Block says: "We are not unaware that 
injustices are worked, but they will not be eliminated by changing the organi- 
zation of society. They can be done away with only by changing human 
nature." A number of topics in Garofalo's La superstizione aocialista belong to 
this same order of ideas. 

* Bebel, Die Frau und der Sozialismus. 


We shall not do the reformers of today the injustice of suppos- 
ing that they are trying to revive under a new form Rousseau's 
old aphorism that man is born good and society makes him bad. 
If one were to accept that view unconditionally, one would also 
be obliged to assume that society is not the result of the natural 
and spontaneous activity of human beings but was set up by 
some superhuman or extrahuman will, which amused itself by 
giving us laws, institutions and morals that have poisoned and 
upset the innate goodness, generosity and magnanimity of the 
seed of Adam. Modern socialists cannot imagine, either, that 
our present social organization merely reflects the instincts of 
other races, other generations of men, whose moral sense must 
have been much lower than that of the present generation, so 
that we, noble and enlightened as we are, feel an urgent need of 
stripping ourselves, as of the shirt of Nessus, of institutions 
that have been inherited from unscrupulous elders. If we were 
to grant that method of applying evolutionary tHeories to human 
societies, if we were to grant that within a few centuries selection 
has considerably improved the average level of morality, we 
would also have to assume that the moral progress that has 
already been achieved should appreciably have diminished, 
rather than increased, the defects of bourgeois organization. 

Nothing of that sort has taken place. Keeping to what the 
socialists themselves say, men have not become less selfish, less 
hard of heart. For if the contrary were the case if, in the eyes 
of men, an atom of self-interest had not often outbalanced a 
great weight of other people's interest and self-respect, if a whole 
society were in large majority made up of just and compassionate 
men, of upright and sincere people, as was pleasing to the Lord 
of Israel and as would surely have been pleasing to Messrs. Marx 
and Lassalle all the deadly consequences of rapacious capitalism 
and frantic competition which have been revealed by those 
writers with such rare mastery would certainly by now have 
been reduced to the lowest terms. 

The world could become an Eden even under the present 
bourgeois organization of society if every capitalist were to 
content himself with an honest, moderate profit and did not 
try to ruin his competitors, squeeze the last possible penny from 
the consumer's pocket and force the last drop of sweat from the 
brow of the workingman. In such an Eden, the landowner 


would cultivate his fields diligently and extract from them only 
the bare necessaries for his frugal subsistance. He would not 
take advantage of market fluctuations in order to sell com- 
modities of prime necessity at the highest obtainable price. 
The merchant too would collect just a moderate and specified 
profit on his sale, and never take advantage of the buyer's 
inexperience to sell dearer, or cheat him as to the quality and 
quantity of his wares. The workingman and the peasant would 
toil conscientiously for their employer, doing no more and no 
less than they would do for themselves, never deceiving him, 
never pilfering from him, never taking a day's wages for half a 
day's work. Then all of them together, instead of wasting their 
surplus or their savings on ostentatious luxuries, on satisfying 
vanities, on vice and good times, would seek out the wretched, 
the poor, those who are not good at making a living, and spend 
everything on aiding them, so that for one hand that would be 
extended for help there would be ten hands ready and eager to 
give it. 

Henry George was certainly a man of noble heart and pene- 
trating mind. He thought that all the evils that we ascribe to 
selfishness, and to lack of fairness and brotherly consideration 
in the majority of men, were due to the competitive system and 
more particularly to the danger of wanting the necessaries of life 
that confronts us all under the present system. Upholding that 
thesis in Progress and Poverty, George mentions as an example 
what occurs at any well-served table, where each diner, knowing 
that there is food enough for all, is polite to his neighbor. No 
vulgar struggle to snatch the choice morsels arises, and no one 
tries to get more food than anybody else. 

Now we do not think that the analogy holds. In the first 
place, there are well-served boards where the behavior of guests 
is not as correct as the conduct that Henry George describes. 
In the second place, material appetites are necessarily limited 
as Sancho Panza pointed out, the poor man eats three times a 
day and the rich man can do no better. At a well-served table, 
therefore, everyone can find a way to satisfy, let us say a gar- 
gantuan, hunger without pilfering his neighbor's portion. But 
that is not the case when we are sitting at the allegorical banquet 
of life. Then the will to get the better of others, to satisfy one's 
caprices, passions, lusts, can, unhappily, be boundless and 


insatiable. A man will try to have ten, a hundred, a thousand 
portions, so that by distributing them among others he may 
bend them to his will. In the struggle for preeminence, that 
man triumphs who can most lavishly dispense the means by 
which human needs and human vices are satisfied. 

Even if each of us were to be assured of a minimum that would 
provide for the prime necessities of life, the social question 
would not be solved. Only the weakest and least aggressive 
would content themselves with that minimum, those who in any 
event would be least well adapted to the struggle for preeminence. 
The others would go on scrambling in rabid competition. 

It follows that the most realistic interpretation that c&n at 
present be given to the doctrine of Rousseau is the very one that 
is followed by large numbers of those who are fighting in the 
ranks of the collectivist movement, or even among the anarchists. 
They believe that the natural working of selection has been 
profoundly disturbed and perverted by present bourgeois 
societies, and that that principle will be able to operate freely 
and exert its beneficial effects only when their programs of 
reform, which vary from school to school, have been carried out. 
But in reasoning in that fashion, they are discounting an expecta- 
tion, and there will never be any possibility of proving in advance 
that it will be realized. Also, they are evidently counting on a 
moral progress which they say will be attained, in order to bring 
into existence a type of social organization which assumes that 
that progress has already been attained, and which in all probability 
would be able to function only if that progress had been attained. 
In a word, they would only be repeating on a large scale, and 
with more disastrous consequences, the mistake to which we 
primarily owe the current evils of parliamentarism. 

But, if the dispassionate study of the past can tell us anything, 
it tells us, as we believe we have shown (ohap. VII, 7), that it is 
difficult to modify very appreciably the mean moral level of a 
whole people of long-standing civilization, and that the influence 
that one type of social organization or another can exert in that 
direction is certainly far less powerful than the radicals of our 
day imagine. History teaches that whenever, in the course 
of the ages, a social organization has exerted such an influence in a 
beneficial way, it has done so because the individual and collec- 
tive will of the men who have held power in their hands has been 


curbed and balanced by other men, who have occupied positions 
of absolute independence and have had no common interests 
with those whom they have had to curb and balance. It has 
been necessary, nay indispensable, that there should be a multi- 
plicity of political forces, that there should be many different 
roads by which social importance could be acquired, and that the 
various political forces should each be represented in the govern- 
ment and in the administration of the state. Collectivism and 
communism, like all doctrines that are based on the passions 
and the blind faith of the masses, tend to destroy multiplicity 
of political forces. They would confine all power to individuals 
elected by the people, or representing them. They would 
abolish private wealth, which in all mature societies has supplied 
many individuals with a means for acquiring independence and 
prestige apart from the assent and consent of the rulers of the 
state, Both those things can only lead to a weakening of 
juridical defense, to what in plain language is called the tyranny 
of rulers over the ruled. In practice such tyranny has always 
resulted from oversimplified political doctrines which take no 
account of the complicated and difficult structure of human 
nature, but try to adapt the organization of society to a single, 
one-sided, absolute concept and establish it upon a single exclu- 
sive principle now the will of God as interpreted by his earthly 
vicars and ministers, now the will of the people as expressed 
through those who claim to represent them. 

Of course sound political doctrine may suggest legislative 
remedies and recommend procedures that might well lessen 
social injustice to a certain extent. The mechanism of juridical 
defense might be improved in such a way as to moderate the 
arrogance of those who are invested with public power. But 
however great the benefits that might be yielded by reforms 
along those lines, they would be insignificant as compared with 
the era of happiness, equality and universal justice which, 
implicitly or explicitly, the various socialist schools promise to 
their followers. They would be something like the few doubtful 
years of fair physical health which the conscientious doctor is 
able to guarantee his patient. A very paltry guarantee, when 
one thinks of the nuisance that goes with diets and a strict daily 
observance of medical rules! And paltry especially if it be 
compared with the promise of a quick and certain cure, of good 


health and long life that is made by the charlatan with his 

It might be urged that from the moral point of view this 
analogy is not applicable to men who are propounding their ideas 
in all good faith. Besides, the physician might well show the 
fatuousness of the patent medicine and then be obliged to evade 
the challenge of the charlatan to invent a medicine that would 
really do what the charlatan's elixir was alleged to do. If the 
physician were wise he would answer that he realizes very well 
how many germs there are in the world, and how varied and 
numerous the diseases that may upset the delicate constitution 
of the human body; but that for that very reason he will never 
claim that he has a universal and infallible remedy for all diseases. 
Merely to think of doing so would put him on a level with the 

5. Anarchist propaganda bases its destructive criticism of 
present-day institutions on the same passions, the same order of 
observations and ideas, as collectivist propaganda, with this 
difference, that anarchists are as a rule more violent. Sometimes 
they are actually ferocious not only in their acts but in their 
words. We are thinking of one publication, among many others, 
in which an Italian anarchist advises the workers on the day of 
their victory to wipe out not only grown bourgeois who are 
captured arms in hand, but also the aged and the helpless and 
women and children down to two or three years to deal with 
the bourgeois, in short, the way the ancient Hebrews dealt with 
the conquered whenever these had been expressly smitten by 
Jehovah's curse. The publication is so well written that its 
author must have been a well-educated man of fair native 

However, the anarchists differ widely from all the socialist 
schools in the ideals which they set out to achieve. In order to 
abolish, or at least considerably reduce, the injustices and 
inequalities they deplore in this world, the socialists would try to 
modify the present organization of society very radically to be 
sure. The anarchists, soundly arguing that there would always 
be disparities of status among men under any type of social 
organization, that there would always be rulers and ruled, or, as 
they put it, exploiters and exploited, propose the destruction of 


all organized society. They remind one of a man who discovers 
that there is no prudent tenor of life that can guarantee him 
perfect health and so turns to suicide as a sure cure for all his 

Logical and consistent followers of Rousseau, the father of them 
all, the adherents of anarchism maintain that since organized 
society is the root of all evil, only by completely disorganizing 
human society and going back to the state of nature can evil 
be eliminated. In this they are only repeating, perhaps unwit- 
tingly, a mistake of their master. The truth is that the 
natural state, with man as with many other animals, is not 
individual separation but social living, the only variation being 
that the society may be more or less large, more or less organized. 
To assume, then, that a fact so universal and so readily discern* 
ible as the fact that all men live socially can be due to the self- 
interest and cunning of a few schemers is a notion which we are 
certainly not the first to call absurd and childish. Aristotle 
lived twenty centuries before the Genevan philosopher, yet he 
had an infinitely clearer and more accurate perception of the 
real nature of man when he wrote that man is a political animal. 
But the intellectual faculties of the Greek Peripatetic were 
probably never ruffled either by an oversensitive pride or by 
literary vanity. One might even guess that the patronage of 
the Macedonian sovereigns, or perhaps his ability to earn his 
own living, saved him from the necessity of souring his disposition 
and ruining his digestion by hobnobbing with people who were 
often frivolous, sometimes spiteful and almost always of high 
social standing. 

Rousseau came of a respectable Genevan family, and he 
inherited its honest and upright instincts. But because of his 
irresponsibility, his inability to adapt himself to modest, profit- 
able work, and the destitution in which his father left him, he 
decayed morally to the point where for ten years or more he 
lived as a not always welcome chevalier of Madame de Warens 
for the support that she gave him. Awareness of the moral 
degradation into which he had fallen in his youth must no doubt 
have been one of the keenest torments to the Genevan philoso- 
pher in his maturity. Being unwilling or unable to blame him- 
self, his father, or Madame de Warens, he blamed society. That, 
In our opinion, is the real psychological explanation of the funda- 


mental idea that serves Rousseau as a basis for his whole political 
and social system that man is born good and society makes him 

But suppose we assume that the anarchist hypothesis has 
come about in the fact, that the present type of social organiza- 
tion has been destroyed, that nations and governments bpwe 
ceased to exist, and that standing armies, bureaucrats, parlia- 
ments and especially policemen and jails have been swept away. 
Unfortunately people would still have to live, and therefore 
use the land and other instruments of production. Unfortu- 
nately again, arms and weapons would still be there, and enter- 
prising, courageous characters would be ready to use them in 
order to make others their servants or slaves. Given those 
elements, little social groups would at once form, and in them the 
many would toil while the few, armed and organized, would 
either be robbing them or protecting them from other robbers, 
but living on their toil in any event. In other words, we should 
be going back to the simple, primitive type of social organization 
in which each group of armed men is absolute master of some 
plot of ground and of those who cultivate it, so long as the 
group can conquer the plot of ground and hold it with its own 
strength. That type of society we have called "feudal." We 
would have happening over again exactly what happened in 
Europe when the collapse of Charlemagne's empire disrupted 
such little social organization as had survived the fall of the 
Roman Empire; and what happened in India when the successors 
of the Grand Mogul were reduced to impotence; and what will 
happen everywhere when a society of advanced culture, for one 
cause or another, internal or external, falls apart and collapses. 

There can be no doubt that people who feel self-confident 
and strong and have nothing to lose would stand a chance 
to be the gainers by a revolution of that sort, for violence and 
personal valor would come to the top as the one political force. 
But it would be to the disadvantage of the immense peacable 
majority, perhaps ninety per cent of men, who would prefer 
to the rule of the mailed fist a very imperfect social justice, a 
little tranquility, and the certainty that they could enjoy at 
least some portion of the fruits of their own labor. 

While most anarchists, for instance Grave, 1 believe that to 

1 La SociMt mourante et Vanarchie. 


abolish property and laws would suffice to make all men good, 
others, less ingenuous, arrive at conclusions that are more or 
less like our own. De Gourmont wrote: 

Given the absence of any law whatsoever, the ascendancy of superior 
people would become the only law, and their justifiable despotism would 
be undisputed. Despotism is necessary in order to muzzle imbeciles. 
The man without intelligence bites. 1 

Instead of "superior," we would say "stronger" people. Instead 
of "imbeciles," we would say "the weaker people." Otherwise 
we would agree with De Gourmont, except that we view life 
as a whole from a completely different standpoint. 

In order not to arouse too many false hopes, one ought really 
to give fair warning that the blessings which the triumph of 
anarchy would bring us would be a few years, perhaps a few 
generations, in coming. If it took centuries and centuries for 
the world to advance from barbarism to our present level of 
civilization, one or two centuries at least would have to pass 
before it could forget its civilized ways and revert to a state of 
just ordinary barbarism. If the aim is to get back to a real 
and absolute barbarism, to the status of tribes living by hunting* 
fishing or nomadic agriculture, then it would take longer still 
the time required for an old and thickly populated Europe to 
dwindle in population to a bare twentieth of what it is today. 
Unless, of course, in order to speed up the process, the defenders 
of anarchy would be willing not only to exterminate the bourgeois, 
and the satellites and sycophants of the bourgeois, as they say, 
but also to kill the great majority of people in the exploited 
classes over whose lot they are now shedding so many tears. 

Among the novels that were published toward the end of the 
nineteenth century, describing what the world would be like 
after the triumph of the social revolution, there was one which, 
though popular in the Anglo-Saxon world, was not widely known 
on the Continent. Fantastic as the story is, it seems to come 
closer to reality than many more popular conceptions succeed 
in doing, and it is therefore more pessimistic. Caesar's Column 
was published in Chicago in 1890 by Ignatius Donnelly (Edmund 
Boisgilbert). It describes the triumph that the proletariat is 
to win over the plutocracy a few centuries hence, when a day 

1 Entretien* politiques et IMmires, April, 1892, p, 147. 


of social justice comes to end centuries of bourgeois injustice. 
Caesar Lomellini, the leader of the proletarians, seizes the 
treasures, the wines and the women of Cabano, prince of the 
plutocrats, proclaims them his own and then abandons himself 
to orgies and cruelties. Meanwhile Europe, America and 
Australia are being drenched in the blood of a frightful carnage. 
The victorious workers annihilate the plutocrats and their 
satellites and consume the provisions that have accumulated. 
Then they turn against one another and kill until three-quarters 
of the world's population and all civilization have perished. 
The novel closes with a scene where Lomellini causes a column 
of human skulls and crossbones (Caesar's column) to be erected 
in memory of all that has happened. An inscription on it 
entreats all who come after, in case they feel inclined to go out 
and found a new civilization, to keep clear of the corruption, 
the iniquity, the falsehood, that caused the downfall of our 
present bourgeois society. 

6. A doctrine common to all parties of subversion, whether 
anarchist or merely socialist, is the so-called doctrine of the class 
struggle. Developed with some fullness for the first time by 
Marx, it is one of the best war horses of all opponents of the 
present organization of society. 

First of all one must point out that the doctrine is based 
on an incomplete, one-sided and biased examination of history, 
to the end of proving that the whole activity of civilized societies 
so far has been accounted for in efforts of ruling classes to keep 
themselves in power and to exploit power to their advantage, 
and in efforts of lower classes to throw off that yoke. Now, 
in the past of all peoples one finds social events of the first 
importance that can in no way be crowded into the narrow frame 
of that picture: for instance, the struggles of Greece against 
Persia and of Rome against Carthage, the rapid and tremendous 
growth of Christianity and Mohammedanism, the Crusades 
and even the revival of Italian nationality called the Risorgimento, 
which, as Angelo Messedaglia, a witty and learned economist, 
used to say, was much more due to the influence of poets and 
novelists than to economic factors. It is interesting to recall 
that when Hannibal marched into Italy and won a number of 
victories over the Romans, the masses in many Italian cities 


began to side with the Carthaginian general, whereas the patri- 
cians for the most part remained loyal to Rome. Such a fact 
is easily understandable. The poor are always more desirous 
of change, and they also have less political intuition, than ruling 
classes. In the Crusades, too, especially toward the end, love 
of gain was mixed in with religious fanaticism. But the presence 
of an economic factor in a social phenomenon does not mean 
that it is necessarily the main factor, much less that it actually 
caused the phenomenon. 

Coming to civil wars, which should be especially likely to 
reflect struggles of class, it is noteworthy that, at this point 
too, the social phenomenon is described by socialists in an incom- 
plete and therefore mistaken manner. From time to time in 
history one meets examples of violent uprisings by the poorer 
classes, or by parts of them the helot rebellions in Sparta, the 
slave wars in Rome, the Jacqueries in France and the movements 
among peasants or miners that have broken out in Germany, 
England or Russia in days gone by. Such outbreaks have 
sometimes been occasioned by unusual and truly unbearable 
oppression. More frequently they have been due to govern- 
mental disturbances, with the beginnings of which the insurgents 
had nothing to do, but which did offer them a chance to get arms 
and acquire a rudimentary organization. In any event, move- 
ments in which the classes that live by manual labor have taken 
part all by themselves have regularly been repressed with relative 
ease and sometimes with brutality, and they have almost never 
helped to effect any permanent improvement in the condition of 
those classes. The only social conflicts, bloody or bloodless, 
that have resulted in actually modifying the organization of 
society and the composition of ruling classes, have been started 
by new influential elements, new political forces, rising within 
governed classes (but representing very small fractions of them 
numerically) and setting out to obtain a share in the govern- 
ment of the state which they thought was being withheld from 
them unjustly. 

So during the fifth and fourth centuries B.C., the richer families 
of the Roman plebs, barred from the consulate and other promi- 
nent positions, entered upon a struggle with the old patriciate. 
This ended in the establishment of a broader ruling class, based on 
property qualifications rather than on birth alone, which became 


the nobility of the last centuries of the republic. So also the 
portion of the French Third Estate that had, in the course of tt{e 
eighteenth century, acquired a wealth equal to the nobility's, 
and a culture and aptitude for public affairs greater than the 
nobility's, won access to all public offices during the years after 
the Revolution. If it is true that in both the cases mentioned 
the governed masses came to enjoy the advantages of a better 
juridical defense, that was because their interests happened to 
be in accord with the interests of the new political forces that 
demanded admission to the governing class. It was because, 
in order to attain their end, the new forces had to champion 
principles of social utility and social justice, the application of 
which, if it did help them more directly, also helped the humbler 
members of the nation. Certainly one cannot fail to see that 
the process involved in those cases is one of the mai^y ways 
in which the rise of new elements to social influence comes 
to improve the relations between rulers and ruled and render 
them more equitable. But that does not mean that it has ever 
happened that the entire mass of the governed has in fact 
whatever the law supplanted the governing minority or stood 
so nearly on a par with it that the distinction between the two 
has come to an end. Nor will this ever happen. 

Besides, it remains to be seen whether, for all the talk and 
preaching, there is anything real in this dividing society up into 
a parasite class that contributes nothing to production and social 
welfare and enjoys the better portion of both, and a class that 
does everything, produces everything and is rewarded with the 
bare necessaries of life and sometimes not even with that much. 
Not even if we isolate the phenomena involved in the production 
of wealth from all other social phenomena as completely as 
economists and their socialist adversaries sometimes do, does 
that theory turn out to correspond exactly to the facts. Suppose 
we grant that it is capital, and not the capitalist, that provides 
the worker with the means and opportunity for doing profitable 
work. Suppose we say it is the land, not the landowner, that 
the peasant needs. Even so, it cannot be denied that the man 
who knows how to get a large amount of capital into his hands 
and knows how to utilize it profitably for an industrial purpose 
and the proprietor who knows how to manage the cultivation 
of his lands well are rendering a real social service by increasing 


production and wealth, a service for which it is altogether proper 
that they should receive a remuneration. For if, further, we 
consider the social phenomenon as a whole, if we remember that 
the production of wealth is closely bound up with the level of 
civilization that a country attains, with the worth of its political 
and administrative organization, the charge of parasitism that 
is so lightly flung at the whole ruling class, made up of land- 
owners, capitalists, businessmen, clerks, professional men of all, 
in short, who do not live by manual labor, will seem supremely 

In our time industry and agriculture are requiring applications 
of science more and more every day. Economic production 
has come to be based almost entirely upon exchanges among 
countries that are far removed from one another, and such 
exchanges are not possible unless people are grouped into great 
nations under governments that are intelligently organized. In 
the face of such facts it is absurd to assert that everything is 
produced by manual laborers and that everything ought legiti- 
mately to belong to them. It is unfair to forget the services 
that are rendered by the class that maintains peace and order, 
directs the whole political and economic movement, preserves 
and advances higher scientific learning and makes it possible for 
great masses of men to live together and cooperate. It cannot 
in all justice be denied that a not inconsiderable portion of 
economic production should be devoted to maintaining that 
class in all the ease that is required if it is to retain and develop 
its intellectual and moral leadership. For if it is certain that 
without the cooperation of manual laborers the directing class 
would be condemned to decline, and perhaps even to perish, it 
is nonetheless certain that without the elements that lead, 
manual laborers would lapse at once into a state of barbarism 
which would enormously diminish economic production, and 
their moral and material status would deteriorate very appreci- 
ably in consequence. On this point the oldest lesson in sociology, 
the parable of the body and its members, which Menenius 
Agrippa related to the Roman plebs assembled on the Sacred 
Mount twenty-four hundred years ago, still remains the one 
that is truest to reality. 

A great modern liner represents the last achievements of 
modern industry and science. It is easy to see that it was built 


through the cooperation of capitalists, naval engineers and 
workingmen, and that it is operated through the cooperation of a 
number of officers and larger numbers of ordinary sailors and 
stokers. Would it be fair for the stokers and sailors and construc- 
tion workers, taken as representing the part that manual labor 
has played in the building of the ship and in its operation, to 
claim the whole earnings of the liner and consider the portion 
that does not go to them as stolen? Obviously not, because 
if it is true that the capitalists, engineers and officers could never 
have built the vessel, and could not now run it without workmen 
and ordinary sailors, it is just as true that without the cooperation 
of capitalists, engineers and officers the manual workers could 
never have managed to build anything better than small boats 
for fishing or petty transport trade, from which, on the whole, 
they would have earned far less than from building and operating 
a liner. Thinking of all the various branches of social activity 
in some such terms, one sees that it is the combination of wealth, 
higher education and manual labor that produces what in sum 
is called civilization, and on the whole improves the condition of 

In the higher classes there are goodly numbers of parasites 
or exploiters who enjoy much and consume much without render- 
ing any real social service either in management or in execution. 
In those classes also there are persons who take advantage of 
their position in order to draw a recompense for their services 
that is infinitely higher than their real worth. To those elements 
we referred above (chap. V, 10), in speaking of social forces 
that are always trying to tip the juridical scales in their favor by 
means of their too great power; and we designated as particularly 
dangerous in that respect financiers, great industrialists and 
speculators in general, individuals who bring great masses of 
private capital together into one pair of hands. However, if 
we look carefully at such exploitations, which are engineered in 
some countries by protective tariffs, and in others by banking 
privileges as well as protective tariffs, we have to agree that they 
work out to the damage both of the working classes and of the 
larger portion of the ruling class. The ruling" class too, in its 
great majority, pays a high pricje for its weakness and ignorance, 
by making sacrifices that benefit only very small numbers among 
its members. 


It can be shown that protectionism cannot help one portion 
of a national economy without injuring another and larger 
portion of it at the same time. If some few property owners 
and manufacturers profit by protective tariffs, others, more 
numerous, pay the price. Those who lose, along with the 
poor, are the larger number of rich and well-to-do people who 
live on government and industrial bonds, and people who live 
by trade, professional earnings or salaries. A bad banking 
policy on the part of a government can be of help only to certain 
manufacturers or politicians who obtain credit by favoritism. 
It does harm to all other citizens, and especially to people who 
have savings. A superficial examination of such facts is enough 
to show the absurdity of an accusation that is often leveled at 
the bourgeoisie as a whole, that it is knowingly responsible for 
certain evils and scandals. It would be far more accurate to say 
that the great majority in the ruling class, not out of malice 
but out of ignorance* tolerate and allow practices that are ruining 
them and therefore also ruining the poorer classes, whose guard- 
ianship has been entrusted not only to their probity but also to 
their competence and wisdom. 

Parasites and exploiters exist in all social strata, just as there 
are those who are exploited at all levels on the economic and 
social ladder. A man is an exploiter when he squanders a 
fortune in luxury, gaming and roistering, and so dissipates the 
capital he ha inherited; and that man is exploited who labor- 
iously and honestly accumulates the capital that the other wastes, 
working much, consuming little and perhaps enjoying nothing 
at all. An exploiter is the politician who climbs to high offices 
in the state by taking advantage of the readiness of people to 
let themselves be duped, by flattering the conceits and vanities 
of the masses, by buying consciences and by using and abusing 
all the shortcomings and weaknesses of his fellow men. But 
exploited is the statesman who aims not at mere effect or applause 
but at the real advantage of the public and who is always ready 
to step down when he feels that he can no longer serve that 
advantage. An exploiter is the Jfeivil service employee who gets 
his position by cheating on examination and running crooked 
errands for some politician and who keeps it, does as little work 
as possible and gets promoted by fawning upon his superiors or 
betraying his oath as a public servant. Exploited, instead, is 
the man at the next desk who does just the opposite. 


An exploiter is the soldier who vanishes in the moment of 
danger but comes to life when the medals or citations are being 
handed out. Exploited is his comrade who faces death and 
injury without thought of posing as a hero or asking for a soft 
job and a pension for life. Exploiters are those peasants and, 
above all, those lazy, vicious and dishonest farm hands who begin 
by living on their more responsible relatives, continue sponging 
on their comrades, whom they ask for loans and repay in chatter 
and bad advice, and on their employers, whotti they wheedle 
out of a day's pay for bad work or for no work at all, and who 
finally end in prison or the poorEouse as parasites on society at 
large. Exploited are those laborers who conscientiously and 
quietly do their duty, who never shirk discomfort and fatigue 
and who live hard lives, unable to better their lot or to lay any- 
thing aside for their old age. An exploiter is the man who 
deliberately shuns marriage and lays snares for the honor of 
other men's wives. Exploited is the man who takes on the 
burden and responsibilities of a legally* constituted family and 
becomes the butt of the other's intrigue. An exploiter is the 
scholar who wins his chair by writing a book just to please the 
men who are to be his judges, or pursues fame by publishing 
a work that will flatter the popular passion of the moment. 
Exploited is the scholar who sacrifices a good part of his material 
success in life to love of truth, and resigns himself to living on a 
lower plane than the one to which his ability and learning would 
have lifted him had he been less devoted to the truth. 

Time was when the exploited were called the good, the honest, 
the courteous, the brave, the industrious and the temperate, and 
exploiters were called sinners, idlers, cowards, schemers, rascals 
and criminals. One may call them what one will. Perhaps it is 
not a bad idea to have just two expressions to synthesize the 
multiple categories that make up the two classes which have 
always existed and, alas, always will exist in the world. The 
important thing to remember is that although the exploited 
in the lower classes are more wretched, perhaps, and more to be 
pitied, there are a goodly number of exploited in the middle and 
higher classes. Otherwise there would be less of the spirit of 
self-sacrifice and sense of duty that are indispensable to the ruling 
minority Jf civilized living is to endure. 

There are writers who have tried to "show by history" that 
the upper classes, as arbiters of political power, have used their 


power constantly to exploit the working classes. Their hypothe- 
sis, and the manner in which they develop it, would lead one to 
suppose that human events had for centuries upon centuries been 
guided by a tenacious and constant will which knew whither 
it wanted to go and astutely shaped its means to that destina- 
tion that events, in other words, had been guided by one 
continuous and sinister conspiracy of the rich against the poor. 
Now all that seems to be a sort of persecution mania, to use very 
charitable terms. A calm and dispassionate observer sees at 
once in studying history that events that have social significance 
come about partly because of passions, instincts and prejudices, 
which are almost always unconscious and almost never consider 
their practical consequences; partly because of interests, which 
as a rule do have some definite and immediate objective; and 
in part, finally, because of what men call "chance." 

Contrary to what some socialist writers seem to think, Chris- 
tianity was not adopted because it was a religion that promised 
happiness in another life and guaranteed that the powerful 
could quietly enjoy their wealth in this life. Modern wars 
have never been waged in order to increase the public debt and 
hence the political influence of nonproductive capital. America 
and Australia were not discovered in order to prepare an outlet 
for the teeming populations of Europe during the industrial 
age and so safeguard against excessive drops in wages. 

It is a matter of common knowledge that by altering just a 
few facts a very little and saying nothing about other facts, any 
case of persecution mania can be made to look like the prof ound- 
est sanity. That and no other is the method that is followed by 
socialist writers in order to prove that the ruling classes, who 
have made the laws and determined the policies of states, have 
used their political influence to pauperize the lower classes 
consciously and constantly. They generally cite laws and pro- 
visions that may be considered detrimental to those who live 
by manual labor, and when they are obliged to mention a law 
that is obviously favorable to them, they assert, without proof, 
of course, that it was wrested by the wage earners by force 
from the greed of capitalists and landowners. 

To mention a specific case: In Das Kapital (chap. XXVIII), 
Marx declares that "during the historical genesis of the capitalis- 
tic evolution, the rising bourgeoisie made use of the state in 


order to regulate wages, in other words, in order to keep them 
down to a level that was convenient for holding the worker in 
the desired degree of subjection." As proof of his statement, 
he mentions the Statute of Labourers of 1349, which fixes 
maximum wages, then other English statutes of the same sort 
from later periods and finally a French ordinance of 1350, 

Now laws of that type are to be found in past centuries in 
other countries. Some were proclaimed in Germany at a time 
when the Thirty Years* War had depopulated the country. 
They were always enacted when, either because of long wars 
or plagues (1348, be it noted, Was a year of the Black Death), 
populations had fallen off seriously and wages were rising sharply. 
But such provisions cannot be impartially evaluated unless 
they are compared with other contemporaneous, or almost con- 
temporaneous, provisions that fixed maximum prices for bread, 
grain, cloth, house rent, and so on. Obviously, then, the rulers 
of the state could not have been thinking of systematically 
favoring the rise of the bourgeoisie. What they were thinking 
in their ignorance was that by passing the apposite laws they 
could either mitigate or prevent the serious economic disturb- 
ances that resulted from sudden and excessive rises in the prices 
of all sorts of commodities, including the prices of human labor, 

Loria goes Marx one better. He says that there was a period 
when free lands were still abundant in Europe and it was to the 
advantage of landowners that the proletariat should not save 
money and so acquire the capital necessary for cultivating them. 
He goes on to enumerate the methods that they used to obtain 
that end and to keep wages low. They were, he says: 

direct reductions in wages; depreciation of currency; introduction of 
machines that were more costly than the workers they replaced; expan- 
sion of nonproductive capital invested in stock and banking 
manipulations, in metal currencies and in public debts; creation of 
excessive numbers of useless middlemen; stimulation of over-population 
in order to supply competition for employed workers. . . . All these 
devices undoubtedly tend to limit production and so also to reduce 
profits. Nevertheless the proprietor class does not hesitate to resort to 
them, because they are a necessary condition for assuring the continua- 
tion of profit by preventing rises in wages, which would inevitably 
mean the end of returns on capital. 1 

1 Teoria, p. 6. 


Now Loria certainly never deserved the charge of being a 
sycophant of the capitalists, which Marx leveled at so many 
practitioners of economic science. It would have been useful, 
therefore, had he proved to us: 1. That in an epoch which cannot 
be very close to our own, since there were still free lands in western 
Europe, the ruling class had such a competent knowledge of 
economic science that they were able to foresee that the measures 
mentioned for instance, expansion in nonproductive capital 
would cause wages to fall. &. That all those measures, among 
them depreciation of currency and overpopulation, could have 
been brought about by a voluntary decision on the part of those 
who held public power. While we are awaiting that proof, 
we permit ourselves to doubt whether even today governments 
or their friends have as much foresight as that, and, especially, 
whether they have the power to carry out all the economic manip- 
ulations that Loria credits to their ancient predecessors. 

7. It remains to consider whether the great current of ideas 
and emotions that can be designated as a whole by the term 
"socialism" may not at least have had the practical effect of 
improving the moral, and hence the material, conditions of the 
majority of people, even if it is not based upon an accurate 
observation of the laws that regulate social life, and even if it 
aims at an ideal that cannot be attained until human nature has 
radically altered. If it has had that effect, its influence could 
be called beneficial, and might be compared to the influence 
of other great collective illusions that have helped to strengthen 
the fabric of society by making men better, more tolerant of 
each other and less impatient with the injustices of the world, 
and by making life less harsh, within the limits of the possible, 
for those who are placed on the lower rungs of the economic ladder. 

The brief examination that we shall make on this important 
subject will, we serve notice in advance, yield a far from favorable 

Books have an intellectual influence which they exert through 
the doctrines that they contain, and which depends upon the 
manner in which certain problems of life are approached and 
presented. But they also have what one might call a "moral" 
influence, and that depends upon the passions and sentiments 
which, deliberately or unconsciously, writers whet or attenuate. 


If one sets out to examine the works of the greater sages of 
socialism from this moral point of view, especially the best- 
known socialist writers of the second half of the nineteenth 
century, one finds, indeed, that a spirit of peace, brotherly love, 
social harmony, breathes from the works, for example, of Rod- 
bertus or of Carlo Mario. Particularly in Henry George one 
notes a noble and tender compassion for the weak that is more 
to the fore than hatred of the strong. Among Italian socialists 
who stress benevolent sentiments more than hatreds, one might 
mention Napoleone Colajanni and Ignazio Scarabelli. 1 But 
books of another sort are far more numerous. To say nothing 
of Bakunin, in some of the most orthodox and most often repub- 
lished writers in Marx, for example, or Lassalle the pre- 
dominant sentiment is an aversion to the rich and the powerful 
that takes the form of unremitting irony, sarcasm and invective. 
In the masters this attitude is presented, now with polemical 
gracefulness and vivacity, now with a dialectic that is ponderous 
and tiresome. But the word of the masters reaches the masses 
largely through newspapers and pamphlets, and in being popu- 
larized is usually garbled. 

In all this literature the capitalist is regarded and depicted 
as a man of virtually another race, another blood. The working- 
man is not taught to look upon him as a fellow creature whose 
weaknesses and virtues are the same, fundamentally, as his own 
but whose traits manifest themselves in somewhat different ways 
because his environment, temptations and life problems have 
been different. The workingman is taught to regard the capi- 
talist as a rival and an enemy, as a noxious creature, an oppressor, 
degraded and degrading, through whose ruin alone the redemp- 
tion and salvation of the working classes can be effected. 

Now no movement that is as vast and complex as social 
democracy has become can be grounded solely upon the better 
instincts in human nature. It is both natural and necessary 
that the lower, the antisocial, the savage passions, quite as 
much as sentiments of justice and aspirations toward a better 
society, should find nourishment in such a movement. The 
trouble is that socialist doctrines offer the lower passions too 
vast and fertile a field in which to multiply and spread in a 
rank growth. 

1 Sul socialisms e la lotta di classe. 


The poor man is taught that the rich man leads a merry life 
upon the fruit of the poor man's toil, which is stolen by means of 
an artificial organization of society based on violence and fraud. 
That belief, in minds that are not absolutely noble and pure, 
serves admirably to justify a spirit of rebellion, a thirst for 
material pleasures, a hate that curses. It fosters a vengeful 
spirit and an instinctive envy of natural and social superiorities 
which only long habituation, and the realization that they are 
necessary and inevitable, can render universally undisputed and 

Nobili-Vitelleschi once wrote that "the keyword to the riddle 
that is disturbing the sleep of Europe and the world is supplied 
in the distinction between wealth and happiness." 1 Now an 
undeniable weakness in the whole socialist movement is its 
excessive materialization of the concept of human happiness and, 
therefore, of social justice. First the socialists overidealize 
the human being, representing him as better than he is and 
ascribing to the social order many or most of the vices and weak- 
nesses that are inherent in human nature. But then they go on 
and express too low an opinion of their fellow men, when they 
believe, or pretend to believe, that wealth is the inseparable 
companion of pleasure, that poverty is inevitably one with 
suffering. To read socialist writings or listen to socialist sermons 
is to get the impression that individual happiness is exactly 
proportioned to the amount of money that one has in one's 
pocket. Such a system may be a useful tool of propaganda 
in the hands of innovators, in that it represents the injustice in 
present-day society as being much greater than it actually is. 
But it does not correspond to the facts. Luckily, things do not 
stand that Way. 

There are, to be sure, types of poverty that seem inevitably 
to result in pain and unhappiness. Of that sort is the extreme 
poverty that does not admit of providing for the most elementary 
human needs. Then there is the envious poverty of the man who 
simply cannot resign himself to the fact that others have pleasures 
and satisfactions of vanity that he cannot hope ever to have. 
Finally, there is the poverty that comes with economic catas- 
trophes and forces a lowering in the standards of living. Con- 
versely, the pleasures and satisfactions that come when our 
1 "Socialismo ed anarchia." 


economic and social status is improved are much less intense, and 
especially less abiding, than the pain that results from a pro- 
portionate falling off. It would seem, therefore, that the fre- 
quent changes in fortune which lift many up and cast many 
down yield a net total in which suffering figures far more largely 
than happiness. 

There is no denying that a man's ability to maintain the 
standard of living to which he has been accustomed, and espe- 
cially a sense of security for the morrow, are conditions that are 
indispensable to a certain well-being. But it is no less true 
that many other elements, objective and subjective, figure in 
individual happiness. The man who has a kindly disposition 
and a well-balanced temperament may be far more nearly satis- 
fied with life than another man who has more wealth than he, 
and a better social position. The very fact that the world 
generally recognizes that the former has been inadequately 
rewarded may, along with the inner approval that he gets from 
his own conscience, contribute not a little to his greater felicity. 

Other doctrines, other beliefs, have found themselves con- 
fronted with the grave and tormenting problem of life, in which 
the just and the good often succumb while the unjust and the 
wicked triumph. But the solutions they have found have been 
different from the solutions that socialism proposes. The 
Stoics realized that they could not banish unhappiness from the 
world. They therefore taught their disciples to endure it 
bravely. Unable to promise everyone the enjoyment of material 
pleasures, they urged even those who were in a position to enjoy 
them lavishly to scorn them. The same scorn of material pleas- 
ures and of the joys of the flesh we find in Christianity in its 
early days, and in all its moments of fanaticism. Exaggeration 
of that tendency may lead to a sort of mysticism, which some- 
times alienates noble characters, souls that are predisposed to 
self-sacrifice, from the world and from life. Such teachings 
are not only morally higher; they are also more practical than 
the diametrically opposite teachings of socialists in general. 
These latter are likely to result in a lowering, momentary at least, 
of some of the noblest sentiments in human nature. 

Socialists are not the first to have preached equality and to 
have aspired to absolute justice in the world. But equality and 
absolute justice can be preached by urging toleration, mutual 


indulgence, brotherly love; and they can be preached by appeal- 
ing to hatred and violence. One may bid the rich and the 
powerful to look upon the poor and unhappy as their brothers; 
and the poor and unhappy can be made to believe that the rich 
and powerful are their enemies. The first line was followed by 
Jesus, the Apostles, and St. Francis of Assisi, who said to the 
rich, "Give!" The second is followed by the majority of 
present-day socialists, who describe the pleasures of the rich 
as the product of the sweat of the poor man's brow and implicitly 
or explicitly say, "Take!" Such substantial differences in 
method can only lead to significant differences in practical 

8. It will not be necessary to linger very long on the causes of 
the socialist current. The cause of those causes is the thing 
that we have been trying to combat in the whole course of this 
work the intellectual attitude of our times toward doctrines 
that concern the organization of society, the ideas that now 
prevail in persons of average and sometimes of higher education 
as to the laws that regulate political relations. Naturally, 
this basic cause presents itself in a thousand forms and generates 
many other multifarious causes, now secondary, now direct. 
There is a very close connection between the moral and intel- 
lectual worlds in everything that pertains to social organization. 
A mistaken direction in the speculative field, therefore, a mistaken 
appraisal of human nature and of social tendencies in men, has 
the effect, in the field of practice, of placing men in false positions 
and so of making them more prone to compromises and wrong- 
doing. As a result the influence of the nobler instincts is weak- 
ened and necessarily, therefore, average levels of character and 
conscience are lowered. 

An important factor in the progress of socialist propaganda, 
and one of its most direct and immediate causes, has been the 
broadening of suffrage, or, more exactly, universal suffrage, which 
has come to be more and more widely adopted in Europe in 
deference to the principles of the radical school and to democratic 
logic. Now the danger in bro&dbased suffrage is not so much 
that if proletarians get the right to drop their ballots into a box 
their genuine representatives may come to be in the majority 
in our political assemblies, as many fear or hope. After all. 


whatever the election system, control will always remain with 
the more influential classes, rather than with the more numerous 
classes. The danger lies rather in the fact that in order to gain 
an advantage over their rivals most candidates do all they can 
to pamper popular sentiments and prejudices. That attitude 
leads to promises and professions of faith that are based on the 
postulates of socialism. The natural result of the system is that 
the more honest and energetic people are alienated from public 
life, compromises and moral reservations become more and 
more the rule, while the ranks of the so-called conservatives 
become more and more stultified, both intellectually and morally. 

Another important element in the growth of socialist parties 
is the revolutionary tradition that is still very vigorous in Latin 
countries. There the ruling classes have done their utmost to 
keep it alive and to perpetuate it. As Villetard has observed, 1 
and as we noted above (chap. VIII, 6), in France, down to a 
few years ago at least, only interests were conservative. Ideas 
and sentiments, as inspired by private education and training, 
and even more by public education and propaganda, were 
eminently revolutionary. The same thing may be said of Italy 
during the fifty years preceding the World War. 

It is natural for young people to feel a need of enthusiasms, of 
having before them a type, a model, that represents an ideal of 
virtue and perfection which each one seeks, as far as he can, to 
imitate. The model that has been set before the eyes of young 
people in France, and in other countries, has not been, as it 
could not have been, the knight who dies for his lady, his faith 
and his king. Much less has it been the public servant, the 
magistrate, the soldier, the uncompromising custodian of law 
and order. It has been the militant revolutionist pure and 
simple. It has been the champion of liberty and equality, the 
man who has fought tyrants and rebelled against constituted 
powers, who in defeat has endured their persecution intrepidly 
and in victory has overthrown and often supplanted them. 

In view of the fact that sympathy for rebels has been so assidu- 
ously cultivated, and that our school children have been taught 
that everything that rebels have done has been noble and 
generous, it is natural that currents of sentiments and ideas 
in each new generation should incline toward doctrines that 

1 Insurrection du 18 mars, chap. I. 


justify rebellion and teach its necessity. No Bastilles are left 
to storm. No Swiss Guards of a Charles X are left to be chased 
from the Louvre. Italian, Greek, Polish unities are all but 
achieved. The Neapolitan government that was defined as the 
negation of God is a memory so remote that people are even 
beginning to judge it impartially. In a world so free of monsters, 
the spirit of rebellion can only turn upon institutions that have 
survived old revolution, or upon the men who stand at the head 
of them and have often been old revolutionaries themselves. 
This is all the more natural in that, partly because of the 
imperfections that are inseparable from any political system, 
partly because of their intrinsic weakness, our modern institu- 
tions have r not been able to satisfy all the expectations and hopes 
of social regeneration that were reposed in them at the beginning. 
Furthermore, once the sometime conspirators and revolutionaries 
became statesmen and leaders of peoples, not all of them proved 
at all times to be free of errors and shortcomings. Under such 
circumstances, who can marvel that there are younger elements 
who think that a still more radical reform of society is possible? 
And who can marvel that those who hope to acquire political 
importance through radical reform, that a goodly portion of the 
noble, the active, the generous, the ambitious, in the generations 
now making ready to take the torch from the hands of the old, 
have embraced socialist doctrines? The psychological state 
that we have just described used to be very characteristic of the 
young men in European universities. It is admirably portrayed 
in a little book that Guglielmo Ferrero published some years 
ago. 1 After explaining why men of the younger generation did 
not believe in the ideals of their fathers and found no inspiration 
in them, Ferrero continues: 

There are always a certain number of individuals who need to become 
aroused over something that is not immediate and personal to them, 
something that is afar off. Their own affairs, the problems of science 
or of art, are not enough to take up all their spiritual activity. What 
is left for them except the socialist idea? It comes from far away a 
trait that is always alluring. It i$ complex enough and vague enough, 
at least in certain of its aspects, to satisfy the widely differing moral 
needs of its many proselytes. On the one hand it brings a broad spirit 
of brotherhood and international feeling, which corresponds to a real 

1 Reazwne, pp. 54 f . 


modern need. On the other, it has a suggestion of scientific method 
that is reassuring to minds that are more or less familiar with the 
experimental schools. Given all that, it is no wonder that a great 
number of young men throw in their lot with a movement in which 
there may indeed be a danger of meeting some unpretentious ex-convict, 
or some potential second offender, but in which one will be sure never to 
meet a professional politician, a professional patriot, a professional 

Ferrero goes on to argue that economic conditions in Italy 
were not such as to explain the rise of a pqwerful socialist move- 
ment and that, at any rate, such a movement "ought logically 
to find its nucleus in the working classes, not in the bourgeoisie." 
Then he concludes: 

If a socialist movement has developed under such unfavorable conditions 
and in so iljogical a fashion, it must be because more than any other 
movement it answers a moral need in a certain number of young people. 

One of the maxims of Machiavelli has acquired a certain 
popularity among persons of erudition. The Secretary wrote 
that one of the best ways to save or revive an aging institution 
was to call it back to its first principles. In reading a history 
of the Mongol princes who descended from Genghis Khan, we 
come across another maxim that seems to run in a diametrically 
opposite direction to the maxim of Machiavelli, and it strikes us 
as being truer, since it fits in with a greater number of practical 
cases. According to the story, Yelui-Cutsai, prime minister to 
Ogdai, son of Genghis Khan, often said to his lord and master: 
"Your empire was conquered on horseback, but you cannot rule 
it from the back of a horse.'* No one, surely, will venture to 
deny the political insight of the Mongol minister, for the methods 
by which governments, religions or political parties are kept 
alive, and the? sentiments and passions that have to be cultivated 
if they are to be kept alive, are often essentially different from 
the means and sentiments that have served to bring them into 

One readily sees that a new government, a new political system, 
may be instituted by revolution, and one may further grant 
that revolutions may often be necessary. But no state can 
grow in strength, no system can endure, if the revolutionary 
atmosphere continues and if, worse still, those who are in control 


of power persist in fomenting revolution instead of cultivating the 
sentiments, passions and ideas that are directly opposed to it. 

Other causes have contributed to the progress of socialism, 
among them the sudden fortunes that are won by many 
speculators, almost always dishonestly, and which are just as 
badly spent in purchasing improper political influence to be 
used in more gains or in a vulgar and showy display of luxury 
that offends" the modest respectability of the average citizen 
and actually insults the poverty of the poor. The whole drift 
of the age is in the direction of aggravating that evil. Though 
equality and equal rights for all are the topics of our sermons, 
there has perhaps never been a time when inequalities in material 
advantages were so visible to the eye. Never has wealth, 
whatever its sources, served to open more doors, and never 
has it been so stupidly flaunted. 

In earlier centuries, luxury and display had a, so to say, 
primitive something about them. One kept a large retinue 
of servants. One offered lavish hospitality. Sometimes one 
distributed food and drink to the population of a whole city. 
Vanity played its part, beyond any doubt, in all such devices 
for disposing of one's surplus, but, as things turned out, a portion 
of the superfluous was enjoyed by those who needed it most. 
In more refined epochs the bounty of the great went into patron- 
age of artists and poets, who were encouraged and enabled to 
create masterpieces of art and literature that yielded exquisite 
intellectual pleasure not only to the owner or patron but to all 
who were capable of appreciating them. Modern luxury is 
often more selfish and less intellectual. It cbmes down primarily 
to organizing an enormous array of comforts and sensual satis- 
factions for those who can spend the money. Not only that, the 
private pleasures which it procures for the few are industriously 
publicized by the daily press. That again, after all, is nothing 
but an expression of human vanity, but the practical effect of all 
this modern publicity is to make pleasures which only the rich 
can enjoy seem greater than they really are, and so to increase the 
envy and appetite of those who are deprived of them. 

Other factors in the growth of socialism have been stressed by 
many: the ill-advised warfare that has been waged on religious 
sentiment; the public poverty that is produced by excessive 
tuxes; excessive public debts and too many unproductive public 


expenditures; the notorious dishonesty of men in power; the 
injustices and hypocrisies of parliamentary systems; the present 
arrangements in secondary and higher education that have 
turned the schools into factories of misfits. A leading position 
on this list must be reserved for the custom of using influence 
upon public opinion and governments to win monopolistic 
concessions or protective tariffs in industry and agriculture. 
Such things are a form of socialism, in a sense, and so it follows 
that any other form of socialism is justified, since a really worse 
one is already in vogue, in that it uses the authority of the state 
to serve the benefit of a few who are the richest and the detriment 
of all others, both poor and rich. 

Neglect of the rules of hygiene, lack of good food, good water 
and sanitary housing, do not generate the cholera bacillus. They 
do weaken the human organism and lower its resistance to 
disease, and so help to propagate the plague once it has taken 
hold. In the same way, all the various factors that we have 
enumerated, all these various manifestations of bad public 
management, are not directly responsible for the intellectual 
germs that have caused the morbus called socialism. They have 
increased discontent and lowered the organic resistance of 
society, and so have furthered its spread. It is therefore in 
point to urge a stricter social hygiene upon the ruling classes, 
which implies their dropping old errors. Unfortunately, such 
advice is easy to give but hard to follow. Before it could be 
taken and put into practice, the ruling classes would have to 
develop a greater morality, a greater far-sightedness and more 
talent than they have been displaying in many countries of the 
western world. 

9. Few among those who follow the movement of public life 
in Europe and America today fail to ask themselves sooner or 
later whether social democracy is or is not destined to triumph 
in a more or less imminent future. Many people who have no 
sympathy with socialist doctrines and no interest in favoring 
them are nevertheless inclined to answer the question in the 
affirmative. That is one of the results of an intellectual training 
that has brought a great majority of educated persons in our 
time to look upon the history of humanity as one continuous 
journey toward the realization of ideas that are now commonly 


called "advanced." As for collectivists and anarchists them- 
selves, blind confidence in the fated, inevitable, and more or 
less imminent triumph of their program is the common rule, and 
it is a great source of strength to them, serving them much as 
the early Christians were served by their faith in an early advent 
of the kingdom of God or in the future life. The primitive 
Christians, again, faced martyrdom intrepidly, firm in their trust 
in divine revelation. So the radicals of today gladly suffer 
annoyances, discomforts and persecutions, when by chance they 
are called upon to suffer a few, savoring in foretaste the joys 
of a certain victory that many believe to be near at hand. 
Many of the more enthusiastic socialist writers of the early days 
placed the date for the triumph of collectivism at the end of the 
nineteenth century, or in the early decades of the twentieth. 

In view of all that we have been saying, no one will be sur- 
prised if we assert that, even granting that collectivists and 
anarchists may chance to be victorious and gain control of 
political authority in a number of countries, the carrying out 
of their program would continue to be impossible; for the postu- 
lates of collectivism, communism and anarchy never can be 
put into practice, any more than the ideals of the early Christians 
could be put into practice after the official triumph of Christi- 
anity. But it still remains to be seen just what probability 
there is of a triumph for social democracy. For suppose a 
mere attempt were made, and sustained over a number of years, 
to put the collectivist theories into force. Even if it did not 
alter the constant laws that regulate the organization of human 
societies, which would inevitably assert themselves in the end 
and triumph, it would weigh grievously on the lot of the genera- 
tions on which the experiment would be made. Torn between 
revolution and the inevitable reactions to revolution, those 
generations would at the best be forced to return to a much 
cruder and more absolute type of government than any that 
we now know. There would necessarily be a deterioration in 
juridical defense and a real moral and material cataclysm. 
Centuries later such a cataclysm might be studied with interest, 
and perhaps even with amusement, as an unusually instructive 
case of social pathology; but meantime it would entail unspeak- 
able agonies for those who would be called upon to witness it 
and to be its victims. 


But, even when stated in those terms, the question is not 
one that can be answered with certainty, for many arguments 
can be adduced for and against the temporary triumph of the 
social revolution. The elements on which a prognosis has to be 
based vary from one European country to another, and the 
problem becomes still more complicated if we extend our preview 
to the English colonies and the United States. 

Certainly it would be much harder to make a mere attempt 
to establish collectivism than it would be to overthrow the 
staunchest of the governments noW existing. Under the present 
organization of society the two reins that any government uses 
in leading a nation are the bureaucracy and the standing army. 
As we have already seen (chap. VIII, 6), in all earlier revolu- 
tions, the great French Revolution excepted, the rider has often 
changed but the reins have never broken they have continued 
functioning almost normally. 

But if a great social revolution were to triumph, it is doubtful 
whether the present body of civil employees and officials could 
continue to function, and it is exceedingly doubtful whether the 
victors would find the personnel to supplant them in their own 
rank and file. The normal organs of government having ceased 
to operate, a period of anarchy would follow, of which no one 
could say what the outcome would be, except that it would be 
such an outcome that even a temporary continuation of the 
effort to establish collectivism would be impossible. 

The present organization of society has immense powers of 
resistance. Just how strong they are has never, so far, been 
tested. The destinies of an incalculable number of people and 
interests are bound up with continuing the system now prevailing 
bankers, merchants, manufacturers, public and private 
employees, holders of government bonds, savings bank deposi- 
tors, property owners great and small. Such people would 
make up a great army. In its ranks would be many who sym- 
pathize with ideas of social equality when it is a question of 
something vague and faraway but who would certainly feel 
otherwise once they saw the execution of those principles near 
at hand and a threat to their personal interests imminent. 

The growth within postal, telegraph and transportation 
departments of unions of employees that are hostile to the state 
might render the effect of such agencies much less dependable, 


but we must figure that a government might at certain moments 
find itself in complete control of them, and they would be very 
effective instruments of action. The government also could use 
the millions of treasure that would be lying in the public vaults, to 
say nothing of the millions that the banks could readily supply, 
or of unlimited amounts of fiat currency that could be 
issued. The state, finally, has the police force at its disposal, 
and the standing army. Proposals have been made of late to 
transform the army into the so-called "nation in arms," with 
recruiting by localities in time of peace, very short terms of 
training service, and so on. But unless the army has been 
disorganized by such concessions to the democratic spirit if 
it is sound, in other words, and is resolutely used, it can deal 
successfully with any attempt at armed insurrection. The 
fact that armies might be reduced to relatively small numbers 
would not alter that situation. 

On the other hand, account must be taken of the continuous 
propaganda that social democracy is carrying on in all social 
classes, even in groups that should be most inclined to defend 
the present order. This propaganda rarely makes full and 
thoroughgoing conversions among people of a certain age and a 
certain social position; but it does make many people, who ought 
to fight the new revolutionary current as a matter of interest or 
duty, doubt the justice of their own case, and in the moment of 
danger it might cause a large part of the forces that are appointed 
to arrest it to waver. Such a faltering might contribute seriously 
toward defeat when taken in conjunction with the slow dis- 
organizing influence that parliamentarism is exerting upon all 
the organs of state. How expect steadiness in danger, or 
scrupulous and loyal service, from a bureaucratic machine that 
has grown used to the shifting policies of successive ministries, 
from prefects and police officials who turn every so often into vote- 
rustlers ? What confidence can one have in men who are virtually 
obliged by the positions they hold not to feel any loyalty or 
sincere devotion to any principle or to any person, who are 
called upon today to fight t% man whose orders they were 
taking yesterday whose main concern has to be to avoid 
becoming embroiled with the master of today, but in such a 
way as not to make too great an enemy of the master of tomor- 
row? That is the way to train good tight-rope walkers, and 


such people do very well for the routine moments of adminis- 
trative life. But they possess neither the habit of blind obedi- 
ence nor the courage to take the initiative boldly and assume 
grave responsibilities. Steadiness of brain and heart is rare 
enough in men who are accustomed to compromises and expe- 
dients, but the quality is most essential in high officials of a 
government at the extraordinary moments when revolutions 
come. Our bureaucrats will surely be found lacking in it. 

What more than anything else makes any sort of prediction 
difficult is the fact that the day when the revolutionary outbreak 
occurs and in our opinion it is by no means certain to come 
will not be fixed by the men who are or will be holding power in 
the various countries, nor even by the leaders of social democracy. 
It will be fixed by unforeseeable events either involuntary 
mistakes on the part of governments or happenings that will 
profoundly shock society and throw it into spectacular ferment, 
but which no one will deliberately have provoked and no one will 
be able to prevent. Events that might provoke a social revolution 
would be, for instance, a disaster in a war with some foreign 
power, a grave industrial and agricultural crisis or financial 
bankruptcy on the part of one or more great European powers. 
But there is no certainty that the occasion that will force 
the revolutionary party to act will be the best imaginable 
for it. There is no telling whether, at that moment, its 
forces will be in the best possible shape and the forces of its 
adversaries sufficiently disorganized. However, the longer 
the favorable moment for starting the revolution is delayed in 
coming, the less favorable it will be for the revolutionaries. It 
is difficult to keep up any sort of agitation in the masses for 
very long when nothing Concrete is being done to enable them 
to see a probability of realizing the ideals propounded by the 
agitation. In France and a few other countries the habits and 
traditions of armed social conflict have been preserved and are 
still strong. But if any great length of time were still to elapse, 
they would be weakened, and there would be a complete lack of 
leaders of the necessary experience and prestige in a position to 
direct the course of a revolution. 

10. In any case, suppose we grant that a violent movement is 
avoided. Suppose we grant even that the so-called "evohi* 


tionary wing" succeeds in maintaining such a preponderance 
in the ranks of the radicals that it,can prevent an armed outbreak 
for the present, or for generations to come. Even so, social 
democracy will not cease to be a violent disintegrating agency 
in modern society, and if the new doctrine is not subdued the 
order of things now prevailing will always remain in a state of 
instability and have to be upheld to a great extent by sheer 
physical force. Now physical force may suffice to prevent the 
outbreak of a violent catastrophe from day to day, but it cannot 
restore to the social body the moral unity essential for a stable 
order. As we have already seen (chap. VII, 10), brute force, 
taken all by itself, cannot suppress or even restrain a current of 
ideas and passions unless it is applied without scruple and without 
consideration, unless, that is, it is applied with a cruelty that 
does not falter at the number of its victims. Aside from the fact 
that such a use of force is undesirable, it is impossible in our 
day and age, our manners and morals being what they are, 
unless at least it is provoked by similar outrages on the part of 
the revolutionaries. If European civilization is forced to keep 
long and incessantly on the defensive against the tendencies of the 
various socialist schools, it will be forced by that very fact into a 
decline, and the decline will come whether our civilization tries to 
compromise, make concessions and come to terms, or adopts a pol- 
icy of absolute coercion and resistance. In order to maintain the 
latter, it will have to abandon most of its idealism, restrict liberty 
of thought and adopt new types of government which will 
represent a real retrogression in the safeguarding of justice 
and in juridical defense. 

Many remedies have been suggested, and certainly many 
among them are not to be rejected. They may increase the 
patient's powers of resistance, even if the best of them will not 
remove the cause of the malady. If national economic systems 
are improved, if taxes are lowered, if justice is made more 
equitable and effective, if all abuses that can be done away 
with are done away with, that certainly will be of no mean benefit 
to society. But social democracy aspires to absolute justice, to 
absolute equality, and these can never be attained. Social 
democracy, therefore, will certainly not disarm in consideration 
of such benefits. It will not pardon bourgeois society merely 
because bourgeois society confesses to some of its sins and does 


penance. Unlike the God of the Christians, the real socialist, 
so far as the present economic order is concerned, wants the 
death of the sinner. He does not want him to reform and live. 

There is a second type of remedy on which statesmen, and 
some few modern sovereigns, have pinned great hopes. It 
consists in applying the principle of state control to curing or 
reducing many of the injustices or sufferings that result from 
economic individualism and from the merciless competition in 
which property owners, manufacturers and the captains of big 
industry are engaged both of which cause misery and uncer- 
tainty of the morrow for the wage-earning proletariat. We 
have already expressed our opinion on this point (chap. VI, 
3-4, above). There we said that there is not a social question, 
but many social questions, and that the principle of control by 
the state, in other words, by the bureaucracy and other organized 
directing groups, is to be justified or rejected case by case. 
Certainly there are examples where state control, used in modera- 
tion, may be welcome, as in the regulation of working hours and 
types of work for women and children. There is no denying, 
either, that as regards charities, public assistance and mutual 
aid, our social organization today is inadequate. We have no 
organizations intermediate between the state and the large 
municipality, which in Europe is an instrument of the state. 
Such units are too large. Within them the individual disappears 
and is forgotten. On the other hand, there is nothing inter- 
mediate between the municipality and the modern family, which 
has come to be reduced to the utmost simplicity, to the lowest 
possible terms. Even brothers and sisters nowadays often 
feel no responsibility for each other. 

There were such intermediate organizations in the old days 
in Europe, and there still are in other civilizations. In India, 
for instance, in every town or village, members of the same caste, 
or rather of the same subdivision in the caste, assist each other. 
Mutual aid is customary in Mohammedan countries among 
members of the same tribe. In China the family is a much 
more comprehensive thing than in Europe. Descendants of 
the same ancestor down to the third generation ordinarily live 
together and are conscious of a community of interests. In 
Japan, the inhabitants of the same village, or of the same quarter 
in a city, consider themselves obliged, as a matter of course to 


succor a neighbor who has come upon misfortune. If his house 
burns dowft, for instance, they build him another at their common 
expense. In antiquity, in the Middle Ages and down to a 
century ago, the corporations and brotherhoods of the trades and 
professions performed just those functions in Italy. Such 
institutions impose certain obligations on their members, but 
they also recognize that the members have certain rights. Their 
main advantage is that they keep the individual, or the family, 
that is smitten by temporary misfortune from being left in the 
lurch and driven to despair. Beyond any doubt, something has 
to be done on that score, and perhaps it would be just as well 
if governments were to keep hands off, so that natural solidarities 
might grow up again of their own accord. The main requirement 
would be a long period of stability in population and in economic 

In western Europe, especially in large towns, the family from 
which assistance can be expected comes down practically to the 
father, the mother and minor children. If through some mis- 
fortune the head of the family who is working for a living chances 
to lose his wages for some months* time, he is certain to face 
poverty and despair. Now what is called "individualism" in 
Europe the principle and the fact of each man for himself and 
God for all has come about virtually in our time, partly because 
of the frequent changes of fortune that break or strain bonds of 
family, neighborhood or professional association, partly because 
of large-scale movements in population that have been due to the 
growth of new industrial centers, especially new cities. Great 
cities are inhabited in large part by floating populations. A 
family rarely lives in the same house for ten years in succession, 
and a person scarcely ever knows his next-door neighbor. Under 
such circumstances the most painful cases of destitution occur. 
Living alone in the midst of a great throng, an individual or a 
family can literally starve. 

But what is ordinarily expected of state control is something 
far more than mere relief of distress. Many people want the 
state to influence the distribution of wealth directly. They 
want it to deprive the rich of their surplus through taxation and 
give it to the poor. This idea is being viewed with considerable 
sympathy even among conservatives. It is the sort of thing 
that appeals to our numerous "socialistoids," or "pinks," 


as they are often called that large body of people who do not 
join any collectivist or anarchist party but create the sym- 
pathetic environment in which such parties flourish and prosper. 
Now the proposal in question is a truly dangerous one. Any 
very wide application of it, such as striking at capital too severely, 
or trying, for example, to specify the crops that shall be raised 
on certain lands, would kill the goose that lays the golden egg. 
It would cause a serious falling off in the production of wealth 
and increase misery and discontent at all social levels. Such 
a system would not give us colectivism. Social inequalities 
would not disappear, and radicals would still have something 
substantial to ask for. But the whole economy #f so-called 
bourgeois society would be seriously disturbed and its functioning 
would be thoroughly disorganized. That the followers of Marx 
should favor the temporary application of the system is natural 
and logical enough. It would be one of those best calculated to 
reduce society to a level where an experiment in collectivism 
would become desirable. But it does seem strange that people 
who do not accept collectivist theories should hope to combat 
and neutralize them with a policy that would make the economic 
situation of everybody worse, and reduce almost everybody 
to looking upon collectivism as an improvement. 

There are other measures which many people favor, regarding 
them as very proper concessions to socialist demands. Of these 
we might mention the "right to work," in other words an obliga- 
tion on the part of the state to pay salaries to all the unemployed; 
the compulsory breaking up of great landed properties, which 
would be tantamount to forcing the introduction of small-scale 
agriculture by law, even in regions where natural conditions are 
not congenial to its existence; a maximum eight-hour working 
day, established not by the mutual consent of workers and 
employers but by statute; a minimum-wage scale, also established 
by law; a single and heavily progressive income tax. Anyone 
who has even a moderate knowledge of the working of economic 
laws can see at a glance that the application of such provisions 
would destroy private capital in the course of a few years. At 
the same time, it must be confessed, the governments of not a 
few European countries have gone so far in certain directions 
that they can hardly reject these demands of socialists and near- 
socialists, and other proposals of th^ same sort, without doing 


grievous violence to logic and equity. If the price of bread is 
going to be raised artificially on the specious pretext that 
landowners must be guaranteed a fair profit on wheat, how can 
the workingman be refused a fair minimum price for his labor? 

Christian socialism, and Catholic socialism in particular, 
are regarded by many people as tools that are well adapted 
to neutralizing atheistic, materialistic and revolutionary social- 
ism. Well-intentioned efforts have been made, and are still 
being made, in these Christian directions, and they have not been 
altogether ineffective. However, we should not have unlimited 
faith in a flank counterattack. It is true, as we have already 
seen, that .both Christianity and socialism take advantage of 
the hunger for justice and the ideal that is common to all human 
beings who are nevertheless obliged to live in a world where 
there are many, many iniquities for which they are themselves 
responsible. But both Christianity and socialism depend 
upon other sentiments besides the hunger for justice, and 
such sentiments are by no means identical in the two doctrines. 
Their methods of propaganda and their aspirations are also 
essentially different, and very, very different are the intellectual 
settings which they require for their growth and prosperity. 
The basis of Christianity is faith in the supernatural, in a God 
who sees the tears of the poor and sorrowful, consoles them in this 
life and rewards them in the life to come. Socialism originates 
in the rationalist philosophy of the eighteenth century. It 
takes its stand on materialistic doctrines, which teach that all 
happiness lies in the satisfaction of earthly instincts and passions. 
Christianity and socialism are therefore two plants of a very 
different nature. They may well vie with each other for the 
sap in the ground, but they cannot possibly be grafted on each 
other. Vain, therefore, is the hope that a Christian shoot 
inserted into a socialist trunk will ever change the fruit, eliminat- 
ing all its bitter flavor, its ever harmful quality, and leaving it 
sweet and wholesome. Christian socialism is nothing else, 
and can be nothing else, than a new name applied to an old thing, 
in other words, Christian charity. Christian charity, doubtless, 
is able to render great services to European society; but it could 
not wholly destroy atheistic and revolutionary socialism unless 
the world were again to be as thoroughly steeped in the Christian 
spirit as it was in the less tutored centuries of the Middle Ages. 


11. Under the conditions that at present prevail in European 
civilization, the one remedy that can strike the evil at the root, 
cut off the supply of vital sap on which the grown tree flourishes 
and cause it to wither away, is of a very different order. Social 
democracy is more than anything else the intellectual malady 
of our age. To be sure, it found a propitious moral environ- 
ment. It found a soil prepared by all the rancors, ambitions 
and greeds that necessarily resulted from a long revolutionary 
period and from the shiftings of fortunes that were bound up 
with such a period. Supremely beneficial to it has been the 
world's disappointment with parliamentary democracy, which 
set out to inaugurate a reign of justice and equality in the world, 
and has failed miserably to keep that promise. Nevertheless 
this new doctrine originates in a system of ideas which is nothing, 
after all, but the logical consequence of the system in which the 
pure democracy of the old days found its inspiration. 

Belief in the possibility that government can emanate from 
the majority; faith in the incorruptibility of the majority; 
confidence that once they have been emancipated from every 
principle of authority that is not rooted in universal consensus, 
from every aristocratic, monarchical and religious superstition, 
men will be able to inaugurate the political system that will 
best serve the general interests and the interests of justice such 
is the content of the body of ideas and sentiments that has com- 
bated, and is combating, Christian beliefs in the people, and is 
the chief obstacle to any compromise with the church. Ideas 
and sentiments of the same sort have produced parliamentary 
democracy and, as we have seen, are now preventing the applica- 
tion of radical remedies to parliamentarism. The same body of 
ideas and sentiments, finally, is sweeping us inexorably toward 
socialism, and ultimately toward anarchy. 

There is no stopping along the road. Once experience has 
shown that mere political equality as embodied in universal 
suffrage fails to produce political equality in the fact and main- 
tains the political preeminence of a given class and of certain 
social influences, it is natural and logical that a system should be 
contrived which will destroy disparities in private fortunes and 
place all who aspire to rule over society, and therefore need 
the votes of the people, on an equal footing. And after a some- 
what riper experience has made it clear, or made it merely plausi- 


ble, that not even in that way can one get a government that is a 
genuine emanation of the majority will, much less absolute 
justice, we will have, as the final implication of a metaphysical 
concept that has vainly sought to concretize itself, a doctrine 
that favors ending any sort of social organization whatever, and 
therefore, anarchy. 

Now democratic doctrine has rendered undeniable services 
to civilization. Embodied in the representative system, for 
which England set the pattern, it has contributed to important 
improvements in juridical defense, which have been attained 
through a system of free discussion that has been established 
in many parts of Europe. But now that we have come to its 
last logical implication, and men are trying to realize the prin- 
ciples on which it was based down to their remotest consequences, 
the same doctrine is disorganizing the countries in which it 
prevails and forcing them into their decline. 

This would not be the first case where a society has retrogressed 
from trying to carry to their logical conclusions principles, 
doctrines and methods which at the start contributed to its 
greatness. In the early days of the Roman Empire strong 
bureaucratic organization was a great source of progress, and 
thanks to it the empire was able to assimilate a large part of the 
world. Later on, excessive bureaucratization became one of the 
main factors in the decline of the empire. Fanaticism and blind, 
exclusive faith in the Koran were the most important factors 
in the rapid spread of Mohammedan civilization. As centuries 
went by, they became the chief reason for the fossilization and 
decadence of the Mohammedan world. 

Things could not be otherwise with democracy because, at 
bottom, under pseudoscientific appearances, the democratic 
doctrine is altogether aprioristic. Its premises are not in the 
slightest degree justified by the facts. Absolute equality has 
never existed in human societies. Political power never has 
been, and never will be, founded upon the explicit consent of 
majorities. It always has been, and it always will be, exercised 
by organized minorities, which have had, and will have, the 
means, varying as the times vary, to impose their supremacy 
on the multitudes. Only a wise organization of society and a 
truly unprecedented number of favoring historical circum- 


stances have managed to render the preeminence of a ruling 
class less burdensome and less abusive in our time. 

Renan wrote that the Roman Empire could have arrested the 
spread of Christianity on one condition only if it had consented 
to a positive teaching of the natural sciences. Scientific knowl- 
edge was the only thing that could, by showing that natural 
happenings in our world obey unchanging laws, develop a 
sense of reality and succeed in eradicating from the human 
spirit the belief in miracles and in the continuous intervention 
of the supernatural. 1 But at that time the natural sciences had 
barely reached their embryonic stage, and Christianity triumphed. 
In the world in which we are living, socialism will be arrested 
only if a realistic political science succeeds in demolishing the 
metaphysical and optimistic methods that prevail at present 
in social studies in other words, only if discovery and demon- 
stration of the great constant laws that manifest themselves in 
all human societies succeed in making visible to the eye the 
impossibility of realizing the democratic ideal. On this condi- 
tion, and on this condition only, will the intellectual classes 
escape the influence .of social democracy and form an invincible 
barrier to its triumph. 

So far students of the social sciences, and more especially 
economists, have examined this or that postulate of socialism 
from the standpoint of showing its patent fallacy. That is not 
enough. It is something like showing that one miracle or 
another is false, without destroying faith in the possibility of 
miracles. A whole metaphysical system must be met with a whole 
scientific system. "In higher education/* a distinguished scien- 
tist writes, "the theories of scientific economics and sociology 
must be set up in opposition to the errors of Marxism, so that 
youthful minds will not be left prey to chimerical fancies that 
are set before them as the latest results of science." 2 Wise, 
sound words! But they merely express a praiseworthy desire. 
They do not point to a remedy of swift and certain efficacy. 
The study of economics is an excellent thing, but it is not in itself 
sufficient to -cleanse the public mind of the chimerical fancies 

1 Tbiis opinion is implicit in all of Kenan's writings. It is developed most 
scientifically in Marc Aurele, chap. XXL 

2 Garofalo, La superstizione socialista, p. 240. 


alluded to. Economic science has penetratingly investigated 
the laws that regulate the production and distribution of wealth. 
It has as yet done little with the relations of those laws to other 
laws that operate in the political organization of human societies, 
Economists have not concerned themselves with those beliefs, 
those collective illusions, which sometimes become general in 
given societies, and which form so large a part of the history of 
the world as has been well said, man does not live by bread 
alone. As for sociology, we are inclined to think that, in the 
majority of its doctrines at least, it has so far not shown itself 
to be a mature science producing results that cannot be ques- 
tioned. In the second half of the nineteenth century the demo- 
cratic-socialist metaphysic had to compete only with systems 
that styled themselves as positive but were just as metaphysical 
as it was, finding even less support in the actual lives that nations 
have lived and being even less susceptible of practical applica- 
tion. As between a number of different metaphysical systems 
it is natural that predominance should have rested with the 
system that best humored the keenest and most universal 

Arduous, therefore, is the task which is set for political science, 
and it will be all the more arduous in that the truths which it will 
be its mission to reveal will not be generally popular, since they 
will shock many passions and cross many interests. It is highly 
probable, then, that in spite of the traditions of free discussion 
that distinguish our age, the propagation of these new scientific 
results will once more encounter the obstacles that have retarded 
progress in other branches of learning. There is little likelihood 
that the new doctrines will find much support in our govern- 
ments, or in our ruling classes, which nevertheless ought to 
support them. Interests, whatever their nature, love propa- 
ganda, not impartial discussion. They support only the theory 
that serves the particular and immediate purpose, that justifies 
the man, that sustains the given administration or party. They 
have no use for the theory that can yield practical results only in 
the general interests of society a nd in a future relatively remote. 
If science triumphs in the end, its victory will be then as always 
due to the conscientiousness of honest scholars, whose duty it is, 
above every consideration, to seek and expound the truth. 


1. 'The doctrine that in all human societies which have arrived 
at a certain grade of development and civilization political con- 
trol in the broadest sense of the term (administrative, military, 
religious, economic and moral leadership) is exercised always by a 
special class, or by an organized minority, is older than is com- 
monly supposed even by those who support it .1 

The facts on which its fundamental assumptions rest are, of 
course, so obvious and commonplace that they could never 
entirely have escaped the observation of the plain man, espe- 
cially one free of special theoretical bias. Vague allusions to it, 
fairly clear perceptions of it, may be noted here and there in 
some few political writers belonging to periods rather remote 
from ours. Machiavelli, for instance, declares that "in any city 
whatsoever, in whatsoever manner organized, never do more 
than forty or fifty persons attain positions of command." 1 But 
ignoring such casual allusions, one may say that the fundamental 
outlines of the doctrine were traced in a fairly definite and clear- 
cut fashion a little over a hundred years ago in the writings of 
Saint-Simon, an author whose depth and originality have not so 
far been sufficiently recognized and appreciated. 

{ Examining moral and political conditions in medieval society, 
and comparing them with social conditions at the beginning of 
the nineteenth century, Saint-Simon came to the conclusion that 
military and theological elements prevailed in the former, and 
that therefore priests and military leaders stood at the apex of 
the political pyramid. In the latter period, he thought, the 
main functions that were essential to social life were scientific 
and industrial in character, and so political leadership passed to 
men who were capable of advancing science and directing eco- 
nomic production. In this, not only did he implicitly assert 
the inherent necessity of a ruling class. He explicitly pro- 
claimed that that class has to possess the requisites and aptitudes 

*Deca, XVI. 



most necessary to social leadership at a given time and in a given 
type of civilization. 1 

An intellectual offshoot of Saint-Simon was his pupil Auguste 
Comte. 2 Comte's Syst&me de politique positive, ou Traiti de 
sodologie 9 was published about the middle of the nineteenth 
century (1853). It developed, with modifications, some of the 
fundamental ideas of Comte's former teacher. It held that 
control over society was to belong in the future to a scientific 
aristocracy, which Comte called a scientific priesthood, and 
declared that such a form of government would be a necessary 
consequence of the "positive" stage which the human mind had 
attained in the nineteenth century, in contradistinction to a 
theological stage which had prevailed in classical antiquity and 
to a metaphysical stage which had prevailed in the Middle Ages. 
About twenty years later (1872), in his Anrien regime, Taine 
gave a masterly explanation of the origins of the great French 
Revolution, holding that it resulted from the need of substituting 
a new ruling class for an old ruling class which had lost its original 
capabilities of leadership and had not succeeded in acquiring 
the capacities that a new era demanded. A little before Comte, 
Marx and Engels had formulated a theory that in the past the 
state had always represented the class that owned the instru- 
ments of economic production, and that the same was true in 
their day in bourgeois society. According to the Marx-Engels 
doctrine, an evolutionary process in society would inevitably 
lead to collectivism and to the founding of a system of political 
and economic management in which the whole collectivity, now 
owner in its turn of the instruments of production, would no 
longer be exploited for the benefit of the minority. 

So more than sixty years had passed since Saint-Simon's 
publications, and the first single rivulet had already branched 

1 See Rodriquez, Saint-Simon et son premier 6crit. See also Oeuvrea de Saint* 
Simon et d'Enfantin (in this great collection, writings of Saint-Simon are to be 
found in vols. XV, XVI, XVIII-XXIII, XXXVII, XXXIX). The concepts 
we refer to are fundamentals in Saint-Simon's doctrines and are repeated in 
almost all of his publications. One need hardly say that the Saint-Simonian 
ect which rose and spread some years after Saint-Simon's death, ranged far 
from the ideas of the first master. See, in this connection, Janet, Saint-Simon 
et le Sainl-Simonisme. 

* On the influence of Saint-Simon on Comte, see Dumas, Psychologic de dew 
memes positivirtes, pp. $55 f. 


into a number of widely divergent currents. Toward the end 
of the past century, and during the early years of the present, 
this new vision of the political world was proclaimed and pro- 
mulgated by a number of writers in a number of countries. 
Often they had reached the goal over separate paths and with 
imperfect, if any, acquaintance with each other or with their 
original predecessors. If this independence did, on occasion, add 
a touch of spontaneousness and originality to the observation of 
such writers, it led the doctrine on other occasions into blind 
alleys, or cluttered it up with irrelevaacies or with easily refutable 
mistakes. When the history of th$ new doctrine of the ruling 
class comes to be written, it will not be hard to apportion to each 
writer his share of merit for contributing now good, now mediocre, 
now unusable materials to the rising edifice, and to determine also 
which materials were strictly new and which were second-hand. 
For the time being it will suffice to note, as a matter of record, 
that in 1881 Gumplowicz's Der Rassenkampf appeared. 1 That 
volume recognized the existence in every political organism of 
two ruling classes, one of which held governmental and military 
control, while the other exercised industrial, commercial and 
financial control. Gumplowicz explained the differentiation 
between the two classes and their predominance over the gov- 
erned class by differing ethnic origins. In 1883 we published our 
Teorica dei governi. There we examined the inner workings of 
democratic systems and showed that even in democracies the 
need for an organized minority persists, and that in spite of 
appearances to the contrary, and for all of the legal principles on 
which government rests, this minority still retains actual and 
effective control of the state. In years following came the first 
edition of the present work, Elementi di scienza politico,, and, 
among others, works by Ammon, Novikov, Rensi, Pareto and 
Michels. 2 

1 Gumplowicz restated and elaborated the ideas he had expressed in Der Rassen- 
kampf in his Qrundriss der Sociologie, 1885. 

2 Earlier in these pages (chap. I, 10), we considered the doctrines of Gobineau 
and Lapouge regarding racial factors in the superiority of ruling classes, Ammon 
published Die naturliche Auslese beim Menschen (Natural Selection in Human 
Beings) in 1893, and in 1898 the first German edition of his Oesellschaftsordnuny 
(Social Order) , In the latter, Ammon fully develops a theory that the ruling 
class necessarily exists because of a natural selection that takes place in the higher 
social strata. As for the other writers mentioned see Novikov, Conscience et 


Today it may be said that in the more advanced countries 
of Europe the idea that a ruling class necessarily exists has made 
its way more or less definitely into the minds of everybody who 
thinks, speaks or expresses opinions about historical and political 
phenomena. This is due to the influence of the writers men- 
tioned. It is probably due in even greater part to an automatic 
enrichment of collective experience in our world, whereby the 
thought of one generation, when it does not fossilize into blind 
adoration of the teachings of the forefathers, goes a little deeper, 
at least, than the thought of earlier generations. 

In any event, it is now a common thing to see the setbacks of 
one nation or another, or the catastrophes that threaten them, 
ascribed not so much to the ignorance of the masses or to the 
wickedness of men ip power as to the incompetence and inade- 
quacy of ruling classes. A logical reasoning ought therefore to 
lead to ascribing successes, when they are won, to the enlightened 
activity of the same classes. Parallel with the spreading of the 
attitude mentioned has come a slow erosion of optimistic con- 
ceptions of human nature. An eighteenth century product, as 
we have seen, this optimistic view occupied a preponderant 
position in European thinking during almost all the nineteenth 
century. It was commonly believed that once legal inequalities 
were destroyed, the moral and intellectual level of all social 
classes could be definitely raised and they would all become 
equally capable of managing public affairs. This point of view 
is obviously the only one that could furnish a moral and intellec- 
tual basis for what is commonly understood as democracy, in 
other words, government by numerical majorities of citizens. 

2. In view of this very considerable background, one might 
reasonably wonder at the slight practical influence which this 
new doctrine has had and is still having upon the development 
of political institutions and upon practitioners of official and non- 
official science. Even those who do admit the existence of a 

wlontti socwle t 1897; Rensi, Gli "ancieqs rSgimes" e la democrazia diretta, 1902; 
Pareto, Lea Systimes sodalities, 1902, and Trattato di sociologia generate, 1916; 
and Michek, Zur Soziologie des Pwrteiwesens (often translated), 1911. In 
this book Michels proves with very sound arguments that even the great demo- 
cratic and socialist parties are inevitably led by organized minorities, and often 
with an iron discipline. 


ruling class (and not to admit it would sometimes be equivalent 
to denying the obvious) often fail to reason as though the fact 
were inevitable they do not draw the necessary consequences 
from it and so do not utilize the theory as the guiding thread 
that must steer us as we go looking into the causes that mature 
and produce the effects which at times lift societies to 
prosperity and power and at other times engulf them in 
anarchy and ruin. It is of no avail to credit the ruling class for 
successes, or to blame it for failures, unless we scrutinize the 
intricate mechanism, in the operation of which the explanation 
for the strength or weakness of the class can be found. And in 
this we have already glimpsed one of the causes for the failure of 
the new doctrine to Bear more fruit in practice. 

These causes we must, therefore, go into somewhat carefully. 
In order to make it easier to keep them in mind, suppose we 
divide them into two groups: extrinsic causes, which are foreign 
to the essence and structure of the doctrine proper, and intrinsic 
causes, which are due to defects or shortcomings in the doctrine 

First and perhaps foremost among the extrinsic causes is the 
fact that, so far, all the institutions that have been functioning 
in Europe have been based on other doctrines, some of which are 
different from the doctrine we are here concerned with, and, so 
to say, irrelevant to it, while others are directly antithetical to 
it. Representative governments now prevail almost everywhere 
in countries of European civilization. Some of them are modeled 
along the lines laid down by Montesquieu, who saw the essence 
and guarantee of political liberty in a tripartite separation of 
sovereign powers. More numerous are governments that follow 
the principle of Rousseau, that those powers only are legitimate 
which represent the will of the numerical majority of citizens, 
while the right of suffrage is regarded as an innate right from 
which no individual can reasonably and properly be barred. 

Now in itself the democratic system probably has greater 
powers of self-preservation than other systems. That is because 
its natural adversaries have to make a show of accepting it if 
they wish to avoid its consequences to a greater or lesser extent. 
All those who, by wealth, education, intelligence or guile, have 
an aptitude for leading a community of men, and a chance of 
doing so in other words, all the cliques in the ruling class have 


to bow to universal suffrage once it is instituted, and also, if 
occasion requires, cajole and fool it. On no other condition can 
they participate in the control of the state and reach positions 
from which they can best defend the interests of their particular 
clique. The fact, then, that the natural adversaries of democ- 
racy are obliged t6 pay official homage to it prevents them from 
openly declaring themselves followers of theories that explicitly 
deny the possibility of democratic government as commonly 
understood. And the same fact also impedes the formation of 
the coalitions of sentiments and interests that are necessary if a 
doctrine is to become an active force capable of transforming 
institutions if it is to penetrate people's minds and so take hold 
of them as to modify the trend of a society at all appreciably. 
Michels has very properly stressed the point that, in countries 
which have representative governments, conservative parties 
are obliged to pay homage to democratic doctrines. 1 

Then again, a new conception in politics or religion cannot 
have a very great efficacy in practice until the conception that 
has preceded it in the public consciousness has exhausted all its 
powers of expansion, or, better still, has carried out, so to say, 
the historic mission which it was born to fulfill and which explains 
its more or less rapid success. The modern democratic concep- 
tion is hardly more than a century and a half old. It spread like 
wildfire because, first in France and soon after throughout 
western Europe, th0-*&e$g. ruling class at once made use of it in 
order to oust the nobility and clergy from their privileges and in 
large part to supplant them. But rapid as its progress had been, 
the doctrine surely had not completed its historic task at the end 
of the nineteenth century, and it did not begin to influence the 
countries in eastern Europe till very recently. 

A hundred and odd years ago Saint-Simon thought that the 
democratic doctrine had already fulfilled its historic mission, 
and in an open letter to Louis XVIII he suggested that that 
sovereign "had better not bother with the would-be dogma of 
popular sovereignty, which was just a strawman that lawyers 
and metaphysicians had set up against the dogma of divine 
right just an abstraction provoked by another abstraction," 
and that "the two dogmas were mere hangovers from a conflict 

1 Parteiwesen. See also his "La democrazia e la legge ferrea delToli- 
garchia. " 


already settled." 1 But in that, evidently, Saint-Simon was 
making a bad guess. He was forgetting, or he may never have 
realized, how exasperatingly slow history is in moving, at least as 
compared with the brevity of human life. Ooe might further 
explain that Saint-Simon regarded the rule of jurists and meta- 
physicians as symptomatic of a period of transition between the 
dominion of priests and warriors and the dominion of scientists 
and businessmen. He also believed that jurists and metaphy- 
sicians had been well fitted for destroying the ancient world but 
had shown themselves inept at reconstructing the modern world. 
Saint-Simon thought that divine right was dead nd buried 
even before his time. As a matter of fact, with Charles X and 
Polignac, it was still trying to hold on in France in 1830, when 
Saint-Simon was already dead; and in Germany and Russia it 
breasted the tide of the times well on into the twentieth century. 
Meantime the metaphysic of popular sovereignty did not get a 
good foothold until universal suffrage was established. That 
measure was adopted in France earlier than anywhere else in 
Europe, and not till 1848. So far, in all the countries that have 
adopted universal suffrage more or less recently, the educated 
and well-to-do classes have maintained their rule under its 
aegis, though their influence has been tempered more or less by 
the influence of the petty bourgeoisie and of representatives of 
the interests of certain groups in the proletariat. That type of 
democracy is not so very different from the sort of government 
that Saint-Simon approved of and which he wanted Louis XVIII 
to use his authority to inaugurate government by businessmen, 
scientists, scholars and artists. Democratic institutions may be 
able to endure for some time yet if, in virtue of them, a certain 
equilibrium between the various elements in the ruling class can 
be maintained, if our apparent democracy is not fatally carried 
away by logic, its worst enemy, and by the appetites of the 
lower classes and their leaders, and if it does not attempt to 
become real democracy by combining political equality with 
economic and cultural equality. 

8. On the main intrinsic cause for the slight success that has 
so far been enjoyed by the doctrine that a ruling class neces- 
sarily exists, we have already touched very briefly. 

1 Omtvres de Saint-Simon et d 9 Enfantin, vol. X^I f p, fcll. 


A doctrine is a thread by which those who are examining a 
given body of facts try to guide themselves in the maze which 
the facts seem to present at first glance; and a doctrine becomes 
the more useful in practice the more it facilitates and simpli- 
fies the understanding and analysis of facts. In this matter of 
political theory, as in so many other matters, appearances are 
often as satisfactory to people as the substance would be. The 
old classifications of the various forms of government the 
classification of Aristotle, who divided governments into mon- 
archies, aristocracies and democracies, and the classification of 
Montesquieu, who trisected them into despotic, monarchical and 
republican governments answered that purpose well enough. 
Following the Stagirite and the author of the Esprit des lots, any- 
one could get his bearings in political theory by deciding in just 
what category the government of his own country, or the govern- 
ments of neighboring or even distant countries, belonged. Once 
that point was settled, he could well believe himself authorized 
to go on and point out the values, defects and dangers of this or 
that form of government, and to answer any objections that 
might be made to it by simply applying the precepts of the master 
he followed, or the master's successors. 

On the other hand, merely to assert that in all forms of govern- 
ment the real and actual power resides in a ruling minority is 
to dismiss the old guides without supplying new ones it is to 
establish a generic truth which does not take us at once into the 
heart of political happenings, present or past, and which does not 
explain by itself why certain political organisms are strong and 
others weak, nor suggest ways and means of preventing their 
decadence or repairing their defects. To assign all credit for 
the prosperity of a society, or all responsibility for its political 
decrepitude, to its ruling class is of little help when we do not 
know the various ways in which ruling classes are formed and 
organized. It is precisely in that variety of type that the secret 
of their strength and weakness must be sought and found. 

The comprehensive and generic demonstration that a ruling 
class necessarily exists has to be supplemented, therefore, with 
an analytical study. We must patiently seek out the constant 
traits that various ruling classes possess and the variable traits 
with which the remote causes of their integration and dissolu- 
tion, which contemporaries almost always fail to noticej are 


bound up. It is a question, after all, of using the procedure that 
is so much used in the natural sciences, in which no end of infor- 
mation that has now become an indestructible patrimony of 
human knowledge is due to happy intuitions, some of which 
have been confirmed, others modified, but all elaborated and 
developed by successive experiments and experiences. If it 
should be objected that it is difficult, and we might add* vir- 
tually impossible, to make experiments in cases where social 
phenomena are involved, one might answer that history, statis- 
tics and economics have by now gathered such a great store of 
experimental data that enough are available to permit us to 
begin our search. 

Historians so * far following an opinion prevailing in the 
public at large have especially stressed the achievements of the 
supreme heads of states, of people who stand at the vertex of 
the political pyramid, and occasionally, too, the merits of the 
lower strata in the pyramid, of the masses, who with their toil 
and often with their blood have supplied the supreme heads 
with the material means required for accomplishing the things 
they accomplished. If this new perception of the importance 
of the ruling class is to gain a hold, we must, without denying 
the great importance of what has been done at the vertex and 
at the base of the pyramid, show that, except for the influence of 
the intermediate social strata, neither of the others could have 
accomplished very much of any significance and permanence, 
since the type to which a political organism belongs and the 
efficacy of its action depend primarily upon the manner in which 
the intermediate strata are formed and function.! Once that 
proof is obtained, it becomes evident that the supreme heads of 
states have, in general, been able to leave enduring marks on 
history only when they have managed to take the initiative in 
timely reforms of ruling classes, and that the principal merit of 
the lower classes has always lain in their inborn capacity for 
producing from within themselves new elements that have been 
able to rule them wisely. 


1. A glance at the various methods by which human societies, 
which have achieved a certain development and acquired a place 
in world history, have constituted themselves and have func- 
tioned furnishes perhaps the most suitable way of bringing out 
the importance that the ruling class has in any social organization. 
The anatomical differences, so to speak, that we find in such 
societies and the types into which the differences can be grouped 
correspond to the differing formations and the differing manners 
of functioning of their ruling classes. 

An investigation something like the one we are about to make 
was undertaken some eighty years ago by Spencer, and after 
him by the members of his school. In trying to found their 
new science, which they called "sociology," following Comte's 
example, they thought it expedient to divide all political organ- 
izations into two fundamental types, the militant and the 
industrial. The inadequacies of that classification we noted 
above (chap. Ill, 11-12), and we also saw that the germ of 
truth it contained was sterilized and lost because of a one-sided 
and incomplete view of the facts of which it was supposed to 
facilitate an analysis. 

The outlook that governed the researches of the Spencerians, 
and the materials they used to build up the new science which 
they were trying to found, doubtless contributed very substan- 
tially to the barrenness of that particular classification, and in 
general of all corollary doctrines of Spencer and his followers. 
They started out on the assumption that the simplest and most 
primitive types of social organization, and therefore small tribes 
of savages or semisavages, reveal in embryonic form the various 
types of political organization that ire to be found in peoples 
who have reached a certain level of civilization and have organ- 
ized into political units of some magnitude. The Spencerians 
derived their facts, therefore, largely from the narratives of 



travelers who had had closest contacts with the more primitive 

Ignoring other objections to this method that might be made, 
it seems to us obvious that, as happens in the case of plants and 
animals, in which primitive types necessarily resemble each other 
because one simple cell will always be like another cell, differen- 
tiation in social organisms necessarily becomes greater in pro- 
portion as the organisms develop and grow complex. A small 
horde of savages, such as still wander about in the interior of 
Australia, will be peaceful or warlike according to the abundance 
or scantiness of its means of subsistence or the nature of the 
peoples with which it comes into contact; but political organiza- 
tion in such a horde will come down to the mere predominance 
of the strongest, most intelligent and shrewdest male, and 
generally of the best hunter or the best fighter the experience 
of some old man or woman may well be held in a certain esteem. 
But it seems impossible that distinctions of class could exist in 
primitive social organisms of this type. Such distinctions 
can be based only upon a permanent differentiation in occupation. 

There conies a time when the primitive stage has been definitely 
passed, when the subsistence of the horde is based on pastoral 
pursuits and even on a rudimentary agriculture. Such a horde 
is a tribe that includes, according to the case, various groups of 
huts, or even a town or a number of villages. A certain special- 
ization of function begins to take shape, and therefore a certain 
order of social ranking. Even so, the political types that we 
meet in all such organisms, which have not passed the first 
phases of their development, present considerable similarities 
in all races and in all latitudes. Whether the tribe is still nomadic 
or seminomadic or already has a fixed abode, it will always have 
a chief who is supreme judge, military leader and priest (when 
the tribe has special protecting gods). But in all questions of 
importance this chief must consult a council of elders, and 
he makes no decisions without their consent. In questions of 
greater importance the decisions he reaches with the elders 
have to be approved by the assembly of all the members of the 
tribe in other words, all the adults who are not slaves nor 
outsiders to whom the tribe has accorded its protection but whom 
it has not yet taken into its membership by adoption or by some 
other legal fiction. 


That is the organization we find described in Homer. 1 Almost 
identical is the organization that Tacitus met among the Germans 
of his day, 2 and we find the same thing in the Arab tribes of 
Asia or the Arabo-Berber tribes of North Africa, though in 
the latter, because of the prevailing Islamism, the chief has 
virtually lost all religious status. Nor would any other type of 
organization be possible under such social conditions. Though 
the chief belongs ordinarily to the richest and most influential 
family in the tribe, he cannot enforce obedience unless he has 
first come to an understanding with other members who are 
influential because of wealth and number of supporters or 
because of some special reputation for wisdom. The mass of 
freemen, further, when gathered in assembly, does not take an 
active part in discussion, as a rule. It limits itself to approving 
the proposals of the elders by applause or disapproving them by 
grumbling. The leaders usually have taken the precaution of 
first coming to an understanding with each other, and, already 
skilled in the arts of mob leadership, they sometimes have appor- 
tioned the roles they are to recite beforehand. 3 

In these political organisms that are in an early stage of 
development, a rudimentary differentiation of classes usually 
begins to take form, based upon inheritance of economic and 
political position. Often the position of high chief is hereditary; 
but, as happens today among the Arabo-Berber tribes, the son is 
not likely to succeed the father if he has by any chance shown 
himself incompetent to hold the supreme office in respect of 
intelligence, tact and character, and unless he is supported by 
large numbers of relatives and dependents and has a consider- 
able private fortune. So it is with the elders. They are always 
esteemed for ancestral luster, but that alone is not enough to 
enable them to hold their political position. In some tribes 

1 Iliad II. This canto contains a detailed description of a council of 
elders and of a general assembly of warriors. See also Iliad IX, and Odyssey 

*Germania XI: "De minoribus rebus principes consultant, de majoribus omnes 
(The leaders sit in council on minor matters; major matters are for all)." By 
"all" he means all the warriors belonging to the tribe. 

8 So in the second canto of the Iliad. Of the Germans Tacitus goes on to say* 

. t . Ea guoque, quorum penes plebem arbitrium est t principes praetractentur 
(The leaders agree in advance on matters on which decision rests with the rank 
and file)." 


there is no real chief because jealous elders will not tolerate one. 
But there is almost always one among the elders who manages 
to acquire a de facto leadership. That seems to be the situation 
today in a number of Arabo-Berber tribes in Cyrenaica. Often 
two families of influence are rivals for first place. So originate 
the cofs, or parties, that often throw the Arabo-Berber tribes 
into turmoil. And Homer relates that Antinous, son of Eupeithes 
one of the suitors aspired to become king of Ithaca by killing 
Telemachus, son of Ulysses. 1 Of course, later on, when the 
tribe has developed far enough to be a sort of nation, with some 
tens of thousands of inhabitants, its political organization tends 
to change; and the change occurs, in general, in the direction of a 
greater differentiation between social classes. The elders 
acquire greater influence and try to strengthen and systematize 
their control over the masses. Gallic populations of the time 
of Caesar were farther advanced economically and politically 
than the Germans of the time of Tacitus. Caesar says of their 
political organization: "Quite generally in Gaul the people who 
count for something in numbers or prestige are of two classes 
[Druids and knights]. The common people are virtually slaves. 
They take no initiative of their own and are admitted to no 
council." 2 The Saxons of Charlemagne's day were certainly 
farther developed socially than Tacitus 's Germans. Clearly 
distinguishable among them are two classes, the nobles, or 
edelings, and plain freemen, or frilings. 

2. But a moment must have come- we shall probably ne\er 
know just when when one tribe was able to absorb or subject 
enough neighboring tribes to develop into a nation, create a 
civilization and set up a political organization of some magnitude 
and sufficiently compact to combine and coordinate individual 
efforts and energies in considerable numbers, and to direct them 
toward attaining common public ends, whether of war or peace. 
This means that it must have been able to organize fairly large 
and fairly well-disciplined armies and keep them in the field. 
It may have been able to construct impressive buildings and, 

1 Odyssey XXII. 

2 De bello gallico VI, 18 : ** In omni Gallia eorum hominum qui aliquo sunt 
numero et honore sunt duo. Nam plebs poene servorum habetur loco, quae nihil 
audet per se t nulli adhibetur consilio." 


more probably still, to increase the productivity of the soil by 
complex and carefully planned irrigation systems. 

Nature could not have advanced by leaps and spurts in this 
development, either. The rise of the first great states must 
have followed long periods of gradual elaboration, during which 
the primitive town, which was the tribal capital, began to be a 
city. Progress in agriculture must have been such as to permit 
a relatively large number of men to live close together in a 
relatively small territory, and to allow political organization to 
become more vigorous and less rudimentary than anything 
described above. During this preparatory period certain arts 
and trades had probably advanced to some extent, and a first 
accumulation of capital had occurred in the form of stores of 
food or implements of war and peace. In that early day, writing, 
though still imperfect, must have begun to fix remembrances 
of the past and to facilitate transmission of the ideas and expe- 
rience of one generation to generations following. 

The first founding of a great empire that can be dated approxi- 
mately by historical documents was that of the empire of Sargon 
I, called the Elder, king of Akkad in Chaldea, about 3000 B.C. 
It is possible that similar efforts may have been made a century 
or more earlier by the kings of Lagash and Sumer. Sargon 's 
empire extended from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean 
and the Sinai peninsula. If it really was the most ancient of the 
great political organisms, it marks a decisive step in the history 
of human civilization. It seems to have lasted less than a 
century, however, falling apart into a number of rival kingdoms 
after the death of Naram-Sin, third in line of succession from 
Sargon. But the example set by that early conqueror was to 
find imitators, and other great empires were to rise in epochs still 
remote, first in lower, and later in upper, Mesopotamia. Baby- 
lonia was situated in an almost intermediate position between the 
upper 'and the lower valleys of the Euphrates and the Tigris. 
For sixteen centuries, the long era that elapses between Ham- 
murabi and Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian empire very 
probably represented the greatest concentration of population, 
wealth and culture that the world had seen down to that time, 

Perhaps some time before the day of Sargon, Menes, founder 
of the first Egyptian dynasty, had welded the little states, 
into which upper and lower Egypt had previously been sub- 


divided, into a single state. So resulted an empire and a center 
of civilization which rivaled the Mesopotamian empire and 
were to last as long, with several periods of eclipse. 

The little we know about the political organization of these 
two very ancient empires in Mesopotamia and Egypt indicates 
that at the vertex of the social pyramid stood a sovereign. He 
had a sacred character, offering sacrifices to the national deity 
in the name of the people. The deity held the guardianship 
of the empire. At Thebes, in Egypt, his name was Ammon, in 
Babylonia it was Marduk and in Ninevehi Asshur (see above, 
chap. Ill, 3). All civil and military powers were exercised 
in the name of the sovereign by a large body of officials, who were 
chosen ordinarily from the notables belonging to the race that 
had founded the empire. Subject peoples often kept their 
hereditary local leaders and preserved a certain autonomy. 
Sometimes they were wholly absorbed by the conquering people 
and blended with it. In such cases local officials were appointed 
and dismissed by the king directly, or rather by the court and 
in the court. It has been possible to establish that during the 
immensely long life of the Egyptian nationality the two systems 
replaced each other several times, according as the empire 
would grow stronger and more centralized for a time, or weaker 
and more centrifugal. The ruling class was usually made up of 
generals and priests, but both in Egypt and in Chaldea the 
priests were the repositories of all the learning of their day. 
They alone knew the laws, and the administration of the law 
devolved upon them. There were even cases where the high 
priests managed to replace secular powers and exercised royal 
authority. So in upper Egypt, in the ninth century B.C., the 
high priests of Amen exercised what today would be called 
temporal power. 

As for the system of recruiting civil and military officials, 
it has been possible to determine that methods varied widely, 
especially in ancient Egypt during the three thousand years, 
more or less, of its history. As we have seen (chap. II, 6, 8), 
there were periods when exact knowledge of hieroglyphic writing 
was the key that opened the doors to higher offices, whether 
civil or military, and there were cases where commoners attained 
high rank. 1 But as a rule, even if there were no really closed 

1 Mosca, Teorica dei governi, chap. II, $2. 


castes in Egypt, the social hierarchy did have great stability, 
and a man was the child of his father rather than of his own 
works. In Babylonia, slaves were numerous, and almost all 
Egyptian documents and monuments testify to the luxury 
that the upper class displayed both in this life and in the next, 
while an intense and often forced manual labor was the normal 
lot of the lowly placed. 

Greek writers incidentally throw a good deal of light on the 
social and political conditions that prevailed in the Persian 
empire, the last great government to flourish in the Near East 
before the Christian era. Greece had frequent contacts with it. 
It appears that birth had great importance in the constitution 
of the political hierarchy. Herodotus relates that the false 
Smerdis was able to become king by making people believe 
that he was the son of Cyrus. After he was murdered, seven 
Persian noblemen occupied the throne in turn. According to 
Xenophon, when the younger Cyrus died at Cunaxa, the Greek 
mercenaries offered the crown to Ariaeus, commander of the 
Persian troops that had fought with Cyrus. Ariaeus refused, 
on the ground that he was not noble enough, that the Persian 
grandees would never accept him as king. The Greeks also 
preserve the fact that the Persian empire was at bottom a more 
or less voluntary confederation of peoples of differing and 
more or less ancient civilizations, under the hegemony of Persia. 
Some peoples, such as the Armenians, the Cilicians and the 
citizens of Tyre, kept their autonomy and their national sover- 
eigns. Others, such as the Lydians and the Babylonians, were 
governed by satraps, who were chosen from among great nobles 
at the Persian court of Susa. Over them the court kept strict 
surveillance. Almost all the subject nations paid annual 
tribute to the court of Susa, according to their wealth, and they 
furnished auxiliary troops as required. In the full midst of 
subject provinces, certain mountaineer populations maintained 
a savage de facto independence. That was the case with 
the Karduchians, who correspond, roughly, to the Kurds of 
today. 1 

In the Middle Ages, the Mohammedan state w$s founded 
largely on the pattern of the Near Eastern state. No doubt it 
borrowed some few details of its administrative and political 
1 Xenophon, Anabasis, See above, chap. IV, & 


system from Byzantium, but to a much greater extent it followed 
the examples and traditions of the neo-Persian empire of the 
Sassanids. 1 Persian influence became preponderant especially 
under the Abbassid caliphs. The very title of the prime minis- 
ter, "vizier," was of Persian origin, However, in spite of the 
stiff religious cement that was the strength of its dominant class, 
in spite of the fact also that at certain periods it developed a 
high level of culture, the Mohammedan .state had innate weak- 
nesses that inevitably produced a more or less rapid disintegra- 
tion of the great political organisms which the overpowering 
impetuousness of the early Islamic generations had created. 
\Almost all social and political relations in the Mussulman world 
were regulated by a religious code, in other words by the Koraq. 
This, in the long run, arrested Mohammedan development 
But, ignoring that, one of the most frequent causes for the rapid 
breaking up of the Mussulman states was the practice of allowing 
governors of separate provinces to conscript troops, and to collect 
directly the taxes that paid for them. Such a concentration of 
power in their hands made it easy for them to create personal 
followings in their armies, so that they could proclaim their 
independence, or at least become independent in fact, though 
paying a nominal deference to the caliph. This defect was 
noted by Averroes, one of the strongest intellects that Moham- 
medan civilization produced in its best days. 2 

China, too, down to a few years ago, was organized politically 
along the lines of the Near Eastern state, but over the course of 
long centuries she brought the type to a level of perfection that 
it attained nowhere else. This was due to the fact that Chinese 
civilization was based on a nonreligious, positive morality, to 
the great unity of culture that the Chinese peoples achieved over 
many centuries of common history and, finally, to the demo- 
cratic system of recruiting officials, who were appointed and 
promoted by competitive examination. In spite of these good 
points, the strength of the Chinese state was almost never propor- 
tionate to its size, and the inferiority of its political machine 
became promptly manifest once it came into contact with 
modern European states. In order to conserve her independ- 
ence and her ancient national spirit, Japan was obliged rapidly 

1 Huart, Historire dea Arabes, vol. I, chap. XIII. 
a Renan, Avem& et rAv&mfisme, chap. II, p. 161, 


to overhaul her political, administrative and military organiza- 
tion and conform to the models that the countries of European 
civilization supplied. 

The organization of empires of the Near Eastern type has 
always proved inferior to the organization of modern states of 
European civilization. It was inferior to the organization of 
the ancient Roman Empire and, in many respects, even to the 
organization of the little Hellenic states of the classical period. 
However, the vicissitudes of the ancient empires of the Near East 
are gradually coming to light, as the old hieroglyphic and cunei- 
form inscriptions are deciphered. It would be unfair to forget 
that through them mankind was able to accumulate the first 
stores of experience and wealth that were required for making 
intellectual and economic progress possible. On the banks of the 
Tigris, the Euphrates and the Nile the groups of elders that had 
once ruled scattered tribes fused for the first time, and organized 
real ruling classes which had a chance to conceive and develop the 
idea that there were great interests that could be common to 
millions of human beings. In those classes, for the first time, a 
process of selection was able to operate whereby a certain number 
of individuals could be freed of the material cares of life. Shel- 
tered by the organization of which they were a part from the 
greed and the violence of those who, in every age and in every 
society, are eager to get the best positions for themselves, such 
privileged individuals were enabled to devote their time to 
observing man and the world he lives in, and to elaborating the 
first rudiments of a morality for the family and for social groups. 
Those rudiments we find stated about four thousand years ago in 
the Code of Hammurabi, which already sanctions many of the 
rules that the individual has to observe if society is to endure. 
The ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead is in parts older than 
the Code of Hammurabi, some of its texts going back to the 
eleventh dynasty, and the most recent ones to the eighteenth 
(about 1400 B.C.). This collection of sacred precepts was placed 
in tombs, perhaps as a sacred gesture, perhaps so that the dead 
might have some guidance in the life to come. The texts formu- 
late for the first time a number of moral precepts and rules of 
brotherly consideration that later were to become basic in the 
great universal religions for example: "Feed the hungry/' 
"Give the thirsty to drink/* "Cheat not the worker of his wage," 


"Eschew falsehood," "Bear no false witness.** In those empires, 
finally, the first trials were made in the difficult art of public 
administration. That art, in the last analysis, comes down to 
enabling a great society, with the least possible constraint, to see 
to it that the activity which each individual carries on spon- 
taneously for his own advantage shall be useful to the group as 
a whole. 

3. If European civilization has been able to create a type of 
political organization that is profoundly different from that of the 
Near Eastern empire, the fact is due in very large part to the 
intellectual legacy left by Greece and Rome. There are of 
course wide differences between a great modern European or 
American state and the Athenian or Spartan state, or the Roman 
state during the republican period; but had it not been for the 
writings of political thinkers of the classical age, whose minds 
were formed by the political institutions they could see operating 
before their eyes, modern Europe, and the countries that were 
colonized by Europeans beyond the seas, would not have adopted 
the political systems that distinguish them so sharply from the 
Asiatic empires. 

Greece borrowed many elements of her civilization from the 
nearest of the Asiatic empires and from Egypt. The first infil- 
trations must have taken place during a prehistoric period, when 
a pre-Hellenic civilization flowered, with Crete as its center, and 
then vanished, leaving only vague memories of itself. But this 
civilization developed the rudiments of agricultural science and 
made other material advances. Such things may deteriorate, 
once they have made their way into the customs of a country, but 
they seem never wholly to disappear, even if the nation or 
civilization that first invented or adopted them is destroyed. 
Other infiltrations from Egypt and the Near East came in the 
period when a truly Hellenic culture was reawakening, in other 
words by the beginning of the ninth century B.C. At that time 
the Phoenicians were the main intermediaries between Greece, 
Egypt and the Near East. On this occasion the new seeds that 
were transplanted to the soil of Hellas bore somewhat different, 
and in many respects better, fruits than did the plant from which 
they came, especially in the respects of art, science and political 


The Homeric kingdom, which we find at the dawn of the 
second Greek civilization, was not very different from the semi- 
primitive type of social organization that appears in all peoples 
which have ascended only the first rungs of the ladder that leads 
to the great modern political structures. The Homeric king in 
many respects resembled the chief of the Arabian or Germanic 
tribe. His authority was primarily moral, and it had a religious 
aspect. He governed with the aid of a council of notables and, 
in weightier crises, summoned his warriors, or the freemen who 
belonged to the tribe, to an assembly. Yet, in a space of time 
that cannot be greater than three centuries, this type of political 
organization, which had few unusual traits about it, is trans- 
formed into the highly original Greek city of the classical era. 

As for the causes of this development, it may be noted first of 
all that the topography of Greece hampered the formation of 
great empires such as were able to rise in the broad, level valleys 
of the Tigris, the Euphrates, the Nile and the Yellow River. 
The surface of the Greek peninsula is so broken that every dis- 
trict, every town (with the territory round about), is cut off by 
fairly serious natural barriers from neighboring districts. The 
Greek tribes, therefore, acquired relatively stable residences, 
and private ownership of land had become customary by the 
time of Homer. These two circumstances allowed agriculture 
to develop so that a large population was able to subsist on a 
small territory, A Greek city of the classical period generally 
lay a good day's journey from its nearest neighbor. Its terri- 
tory rarely exceeded a thousand square miles. Given the agri- 
cultural development of the period, that amount of land could 
support thirty or forty thousand persons, including of course 
slaves and resident aliens. The village or primitive town 
became a populous city very easily. Attica had a territory of 
about two thousand square miles. In its heyday its population 
may have exceeded two hundred thousand. Syracuse and 
Sparta also had larger territories and populations than the nor- 
mal Greek city. Now Athens, Syracuse and Sparta were the 
largest and strongest states of the ancient Hellenic world. 1 

The powerful organization of the ancient Greek clans also may 
have contributed to the different political development of Greece 

1 0n the population of aacient Greece, see Beloch, Die Bevdlkerung der 
Griechwch-Romischen Welt, chap. Ill, pp. 54-107. 


as compared with the Near East. Every group of families that 
considered itself descended from a common ancestor retained a 
certain amount of political and religious autonomy in the begin- 
ning, so that the city was a sort of confederation of clans. But 
besides these factors, there must have been others of an intellec- 
tual and moral order which, because of the remoteness of the 
time and the dearth of documents, we cannot discern or analyze 
very exactly. These factors we are forced to define with a 
very generic and imperfect phrase, as products of the peculiar 
"genius" of the Hellenic stock and, later on, of the Italic. 

In any event, the early Greek kingship eventually began to 
lose ground, and it had fallen into desuetude in Hellas perhaps 
less than a century after Homer's time. Hesiod already speaks 
of kings far less respectfully than Homer does. He who was 
called "the peasant's poet" accuses them of trafficking in justice, 
describes them outright as "devourers of gifts" and warmly 
recommends that his brother Perseus have nothing to do with 
them. The king either disappeared or lost his importance alto- 
gether in the council of notables. The city came to be governed 
by the heads of the phratries, or clans, or by groups of the oldest 
and most influential families, who owned the best lands and had 
them cultivated by slaves or by the throng of ne'er-do-wells and 
refugees from other countries whom every city used to accept, once 
an influential citizen could be found to accord them patronage. 
The dominant political organ, therefore, was the ancient "sen- 
ate," or council of elders, in which the principal families were 
represented. The old assembly of all the citizens probably 
continued to function alongside the council of elders. But, 
because of a growing concentration of property and the large 
number of clients that the leading families could control, the 
council retained, for some time at least, the ascendancy that 
it had enjoyed in the monarchical era. 

In a period that must correspond, roughly, to the seventh 
century B.C., progress in agriculture and an incipient commerce 
must have provided many of the descendants of resident aliens 
of long standing with the means to create independent economic 
positions for themselves. They began to crave admission to 
citizenship, that being the only way to share in the functions of 
government and to escape the onerous supervision of the elders. 
The movement must have been seconded by the poorer and 


obscurer families of old citizens, who also had an interest in 
fighting the oligarchical system which the richer and more illus- 
trous families had instituted. 

These causes are of an economic order more especially. There 
were others. A change in armament and military tactics 
occurred about this time and must have contributed to the 
democratization of the Greek city. War chariots had been in 
use in the Homeric age, when they were the arm, so to speak, 
that decided the outcome of a battle. Only very wealthy per- 
sons could afford chariots. But now they came to be replaced 
by plain cavalry, and later on by hoplites, or heavily armed 
infantrymen. Hoplites formed the backbone of the Greek 
armies during the classical period. The equipment of a hoplite, 
though relatively costly, was within the reach of a man of 
moderate income. In Draco's constitution, which antedated 
Solon's, participation in public office by all who are supplied 
with arms appears as a long-recognized right. 

A period of civil conflict ensued, during which the losing 
parties often had to emigrate. Traces of this period are found 
in the poets of the age, notably in the verses of Theognis of 
Megara. It was at times broken by dictatorships of popular 
leaders, who were called "tyrants." Such conflicts generally 
ended in compromises of the sort that Solon effected in Athens in 
the early decades of the sixth century B.C., and the compromises 
resulted in that constitution of the Greek city-state of the classical 
age which was destined to have such a great significance in the 
political history of the world. 

The bases of these compromises were in the main two: First, 
admission to citizenship of a certain number of descendants of 
old resident aliens or emancipated slaves. There was no applica- 
tion of this principle, however, to cases arising subsequent to 
the reform of the constitution. New resident aliens were, on 
the whole, still barred from citizenship, so that even in demo- 
cratic Athens the sons of a citizen and a woman who was not of 
Athenian birth could not be admitted to citizenship. 1 Second, 
explicit recognition that sovereign power rested with the assembly 
of all the citizens. Over this route the citizen assembly gradually 
absorbed almost all the old prerogatives of the clan, which the 
heads of aristocratic families had formerly exercised over people 

1 Aristotk, Constitution of Athens, 4. 


of their own blood. The council of elders lost prestige pro- 
portionately and as a rule it was transformed into a senate, which 
was very often a direct emanation of the assembly, the assembly 
having the right to determine its membership. 

Classical antiquity never knew that clean-cut separation of 
legislative, executive and judiciary powers which, theoretically 
at least, is one of the outstanding characteristics of modern 
constitutions. Even in the period of the empire in Borne, 
complete separation of judiciary and administrative functions, 
which is a most familiar concept to us, had not been introduced. 1 
The Roman praetor could exercise functions that would now be 
called legislative. But in classical Hellas, what would now 
correspond to the sovereign power par excellence, in other 
words the legislative power, was entrusted almost exclusively 
to the assembly of citizens, while what we would call executive 
and judiciary functions were delegated to bodies, or individuals, 
that were almost always elected by all the citizens, or chosen 
by lot from among all citizens or specified classes of citizens. 
Aristotle enumerates the many public offices that were considered 
necessary for the proper functioning of the Greek commonwealth. 
They busied thousands of citizens, and the incumbents were 
for the most part chosen by lot. 2 

Characteristic of almost a,ll the constitutions of the Hellenic 
cities was temporary tenure of office, the incumbents generally 
being renewed at least once a year. Just as common was the 
rule that more than one person should exercise the given public 
function. This custom was designed to provide that the power 
of an individual should always be controlled and limited by the 
equal power of one or more other individuals. That was the 
idea of the two consuls in Rome. The principle was so con- 
scientiously applied that, in many Greek cities, command 
of the army or navy in war was entrusted to a number of pole- 
marchs or navarchs who functioned in rotation. Character- 
istic again of the political and administrative organization of the 
Greek state was the almost complete lack of what would now be 
called salaried officeholders. It is interesting to note that a 
number of judiciary and executive prerogatives which were 
held to be of great importance were ordinarily reserved for 

1 Hartmann, Der Untergang der Antiken WeU, chap. II, p. 46. 
* Constitution of Athens, 42-62. 


the popular assembly. The assembly almost always retained the 
right to declare war, to make peace and to apply the heavier 
penalties death or exile. At the very least an appeal to the 
popular assembly was allowed in these latter cases. 

There was no standing army. As Aristotle reports, 1 on 
reaching the age of eighteen all ephebi (sons of Athenian citizens) 
served a year in military training and then two more years as 
armed guards on the coast and at other strategic points in Attica. 
At bottom, therefore, Athens had what would now be called 
"three years' service." However, there was no permanent 
body of officers. The people merely chose, each year, five 
honorable citizens over forty years of age who managed the 
affairs of the corps of ephebi and superintended the commissary 
each ephebus received four obols a day for his maintenance. 
Then there were two instructors in gymnastics, who taught the 
manual of arms and commanded military drill. There were no 
standard regulations for discipline and no military penal code. 
In times of peace at least, the ephebus was subject to the same 
jurisdictions as any^ other citizen. There is no indication in the 
history of Athens that would lead one to suppose that the body 
of ephebi had anything to do with what we would now call 
police duty, the task of upholding the government or of main- 
taining public order. 

4. Beginning with Herodotus, all the Greek writers of the 
classical period recognize the existence of three forms of govern- 
ment monarchy, aristocracy and democracy. Herodotus puts 
into the mouths of three of the Persian nobles who killed the 
false Smerdis a dispute as to the merits and defects of the 
three forms. 2 The anecdote has little plausibility as history, 
but it proves at least that as early as the middle of the fifth 
century B.C., more than a century before Aristotle began to 
write, the Greeks (not the Persians) were familiar with the 
three categories and were exercising their critical talents in 
debating the advantages and drawbacks of each type of govern- 
ment. That the thinkers of classical Hellas should have stressed 
the importance of the monarchical system among the possible 
forms of government is readily comprehensible. Memories 

2 Histories III. 


of the Homeric monarchy were prominent in their literary tradi- 
tion. There had been recent examples of tyrannies they were 
especially common in the Hellenic colonies, in Magna Graecia 
and in Sicily. The old patriarchal monarchy itself survived in 
remote corners of Epirus. Traces of it lingered tenaciously on 
in Sparta. The Greeks, finally, were in frequent contact with 
barbarian peoples, who almost always had kings. 

But the Hellenic state of the classical age fluctuated almost 
always between aristocracy and democracy. Those were the 
two constant tendencies that were in perpetual conflict within 
the Greek city-state. Aristotle, in fact, devotes a good part 
of his immortal Politics to analyzing that inevitable alternation. 1 

It is important to note that the Greek conception of aristocracy 
differed considerably from the Roman conception, which in turn 
has colored modern usage of the term. For the Greeks of the 
classical period, the notion of aristocracy was not inseparably 
bound up with the notion of hereditary power, whereby public 
offices descend from generation to generation in the same families. 
Aristocracy meant simply that offices were entrusted, exclusively 
or preferably, to men who stood out from the mass of other 
citizens through wealth or exceptional merit, whether or not 
they descended from ancestors who had been equally prominent. 
So true is this that Aristotle explicitly distinguishes aristocracy 
from "eugenism," which would mean government by men of 
families of long-standing prominence, or "men of family," 
pure and simple. 2 And, in fact, it happened not infrequently 
that some "man of family" would lead the people against an 
"aristocratic" party composed in the majority of men of recent 
fortune. That was the case with Pericles. 

But as regards the conflict between aristocracy and democracy, 
one may say that the Greek state had an aristocratic system 
whenever wealth succeeded in prevailing over number among 
the citizens and a democratic system whenever number prevailed 
over wealth. Under the aristocratic system, public offices, 
or at least the more important public offices, when they were not 
actually restricted by law to citizens with specified property 
qualifications, paid no salaries. They were accessible only to 

1 See, especially, VI, VII, VIII. 

2 Ibid. Ill, 7, 7; VIII, 1, 7. In the latter passage Aristotle says: "For good 
birth is virtue and ancient wealth" ancient in the family, that is. 


people who did not have to work for a living in person and day 
by day. There was no fee for attending meetings of the assem- 
bly, and these, accordingly, were unattended by the poor but 
assiduously attended by the rich and their clients. When the 
system was democratic, public offices were remunerative, and 
attendance at the assembly entitled one to a counter, which 
could be cashed. 

Under aristocratic regimes, public offices were almost always 
elective, because at periods of elections the wealthy combined 
in more or less secret associations ("hetairies") and with plenty of 
rustling by their clients they could easily manage to concentrate 
their votes on their own candidates and to outvote the poor, 
who had no such resources for organizing. Under democratic 
regimes, public offices were generally distributed by lot among the 
citizens. That system was justly regarded as absurd, even by 
thinkers of ancient Greece; but after all it was the only system 
whereby the influence of reputation, personal connections and 
financed electioneering could be eliminated. 

As we have already seen, since the poor were always more 
numerous than the rich, aristocratic governments leaned heavily 
on clienteles, which were kept up through the patronage that 
the man of wealth bestowed on a certain number of the poor, 
and through the lavishness with which those who were following 
political careers showered hospitality upon the less pecunious 
citizens in the mass. Aristotle expressly notes that Pericles 
was not as rich as Cimon, son of Miltiades and leader of the 
aristocratic party. He could not compete with Cimon on the 
terrain of expenditure. He therefore made a bid to the poor by 
having many posts, which had formerly carried no stipend, 
paid for out of the public treasury. 1 That system, making the 
proper allowances, is not exceptional even today in countries 
that are democratically ruled. Well known to politicians is 
the trick of offsetting the influence of private wealth by the 
squandering of public wealth. 

Abuse of aristocracy in the Greek state generally lay in the 
direction of exaggerating the system that is to say, in trans- 
forming aristocracy into oligarchy, in which a closed clique 
jealously barred from public offices all elements that were not of 
the clique, whatever their wealth or personal merit. Other 
1 Constitution of Athens, 27. 


frequent abuses resulted when the monopoly of public magis- 
tracies was utilized for protecting and increasing the private 
fortunes of the governing group and of their associates and clients. 
This was managed more particularly by seeing to it that judg- 
ments in civil and criminal cases were handed down by persons 
who were affiliated with the faction that was ruling the state, 
or who were loyal to it. 

Vice versa, at times when poverty was self-respecting, and a 
majority of the poor would succeed in keeping free of clientage 
to the rich, abuses of democracy would readily develop. Impor- 
tant public offices would then be given to the men on whom the 
lots fell, no account being taken of their capacities and aptitudes 
for filling them. Since the exercise of all public functions was 
remunerated, the treasury was soon so overloaded that in order 
to meet the enormous expenditures, burdensome taxes had 
to be levied on the rich and well-to-do. These amounted to 
masked confiscations of private fortunes, and the public economy 
was accordingly upset. Aristotle calculates that in Athens 
in the day of Pericles about twenty thousand citizens were 
subsidized by the public treasury. This meant that virtually the 
entire citizenry was transformed into a class of state pensioners. 1 
That was possible for a certain length of time partly because of 
the income which the city derived from the silver mines of 
Laurion, but mainly because, as Aristotle again states, the 
contributions that the allies paid in to Athens for the prosecution 
of the war against Persia were regularly misappropriated. This 
misappropriation was not by any means the least influential 
cause among the many that brought on the long and disgraceful 
war which was soon to break out among the Hellenes, and which 
came to be called the Peloponnesian War. In graver cases, 
some popular demagogue would kill off the rich, or else banish 
them, confiscate their property and divide up the loot among 
his partisans or among the foreign mercenaries who supported 
him. This would mean that the normal functioning of the 
constitution was suspended and that there would be a dictator- 
ship by a leader sustained by a faction. This was called "tyr- 
anny," and the Greek writers unanimously describe it as the 
worst of all forms of government. 2 

1 Ibid. 24. 

8 Aristotle, Politics; Plato, Republic. 


One need hardly say that the normal functioning of the 
Hellenic state required a high level of economic prosperity and a 
high grade of intelligence and moral integrity in the majority of 
citizens. Such things are not easy to procure. In fact, this 
type of political organization lasted in full efficiency for less than 
two centuries, that is to say, from the beginning of the fifth 
century B.C. to the close of the fourth, a period that coincided 
with the maximum development of Hellenic civilization. 
Since there was no regular bureaucracy, and no permanent police 
force entrusted with the execution of the laws, the majority of 
citizens had to possess a strong sense of legality and the high 
degree of public spirit that would induce them to sacrifice their 
individual interests to the public interest. Such virtues therefore 
were inculcated and celebrated in every possible way by Greek 
education. That explains in large part the importance that 
Plato and Aristotle attach to the education of the young, and 
education was already regarded as one of the functions of the 
state in ancient Greece. It was also indispensable that a certain 
numerical proportion should be maintained between citizens 
and slaves. If the citizens were very few, the slaves were likely 
to rebel, as the helots often did at Sparta. On the other hand, 
if the population of citizens grew too large, then large numbers of 
them inevitably became paupers and lost interest in the main- 
tenance of their institutions. With an eye to these difficulties, 
Plato, in the Republic, proposed the abolition of private property, 
and consequently of the family, at least for the ruling class. 
With greater practical insight, Aristotle recommended building 
up small property, justly noting that the door stood open to all 
upheavals when a few very wealthy citizens faced a host of poor 
ones, who had arms and votes at their disposal but no interest 
in defending the existing order of things. 1 

By the very character of its organic constitution, the Greek 
state was destined to remain a small affair, its territory never 
exceeding the limits of a town of moderate size. If the ancient 
Greeks used one word, "polls," to indicate both the state and 
the city, it was because they could hardly conceive of a state 
organized in the Hellenic manner that was bigger than one city 
and the immediately adjacent territory that supplied its means 
of subsistence. To be sure, when Alexander the Great eon- 


quered the Persian empire, Greek civilization spread to states of 
large size, such as the realms of Syria, Egypt and Macedonia. 
But those were great military monarchies, and their organization 
had nothing to do with the political type with which Plato and 
Aristotle deal. In those monarchies, besides, the Hellenic ele- 
ment was confined to a small ruling class. 

Greece proper never knew a great state for the reason that the 
Greek city could not become one. The basis of its organization 
was the assembly of citizens. In order to attend regularly, one 
had to live in the city, or in its immediate environs. Nor could 
the assembly itself be too large. Otherwise the major portion 
of those present could not hear what the orators were saying. 
That is why Plato, in the Republic, limits the number of citizens 
to five thousand. In a plan he devised for an ideal constitution, 
Hippodamus of Miletus suggested ten thousand, and of the ten 
thousand only a third were to be supplied with arms and so 
qualified, as Aristotle observes, 1 to take part in public affairs. 
In the same connection Aristotle speaks of another ideal con- 
stitution that was put forward by Phaleas of Chalcedon, pro- 
posing an equal distribution of land among the citizens. The 
Stagirite, again with much good sense, emphasizes the difficulty 
of establishing such a system and especially of keeping it going 
afterward. Aristotle himself does not specify a number of 
citizens. He says that there might be as many as could hear a 
human voice, and not the voice of Stentor, either; and he adds 
that all citizens should be able to know each other, in order to 
judge of each others' aptitudes for public office, a thing that 
would be impossible if the citizens were too numerous. 2 In her 
best days, Athens probably had more than thirty thousand 
citizens, but that was an exception. Syracuse had even more than 
that, but at Syracuse, beginning with the fourth century B.C., the 
normal organization of the Greek city was no longer able to func- 
tion, In the day of Aristotle, Sparta had fallen to as few as two 
or three thousand citizens, 3 and could arm, he thought, not more 
than a thousand fighters. That estimate was probably too low. 
Aristotle admits that in earlier periods Sparta may have had 
around ten thousand citizens. The number of warriors, of 

1 IMd. II, 5. 

2 im. iv, 4. 

Ibid. II, 6. 


course, would always be smaller than the number of citizens. 
As for Athens, Beloch thinks that in 431 B.C., at the outbreak of 
the Peloponnesian War, the period of the city's greatest prosper- 
ity, the number of citizens must have reached 45,000, including 
cleruchs (Athenian colonists who lived in other cities). 1 

To compensate for the impossibility of forming a great state, 
while keeping the organization of the Hellenic city intact, ancient 
Greece attempted to apply the principle of hegemony, the suprem- 
acy of a large city over a number of smaller ones. The remedy 
soon showed its awkwardness and inadequacy. As happened 
with Athens after the battle of Aegospotami, and with Sparta 
after Leuctra, the subject cities reclaimed their independence 
the moment the dominant capital suffered a reverse. Colonies 
themselves increased the power of the mother city but slightly, 
because they too were cities and therefore so many states in 
themselves, retaining, if anything, a religious or merely sym- 
pathetic bond with the city in which they originated. 

One may reasonably wonder that many of the fundamental 
concepts which later came to serve as bases for the constitutions 
of the great modern states of European type should first have 
been worked out and embodied in such tiny political organisms. 
To tell the truth, the concept of political liberty was not alto- 
gether alien to the peoples of the ancient East and of Egypt. But 
to them it meant simply that one people should not be subject 
to another of different race, religion and civilization, and that 
those who ruled a country should be men of that country and 
not foreigners. The concept was never interpreted in the sense 
that a national governmental system could be thought of as 
servitude from the mere fact that it was absolute and arbitrary. 
The Old Testament shows that the Hebrews considered them- 
selves enslaved when they were subject to the Amalekites or 
Philistines, or when they were transported by Nebuchadnezzar 
to Babylon; but not when they had a national king, though the 
harsh and arbitrary government of their monarchs was very well 
described to the elders of Israel by Samuel. 

It was in ancient Greece that, for the first time, only that 

people was regarded as politically free which was subject to laws 

that the majority of its citizens had approved, and to magistrates 

to whom the majority itself had delegated fixed powers for fixed 

1 Bevtflkerung, and see Gomme, The Population of Athena. 


periods. It was in Greece that, for the first time, authority was 
transmitted not from above downward, not from the man who 
stood at the apex of the political hierarchy to those who were 
subject to him, but from below upward, from those over whom 
authority was exercised to those who were to exercise it. 

In other words, Hellenic civilization was the first to assert, as 
against the divine right of kings, the human right of peoples to 
govern themselves. Hellenic civilization was the first to cease 
looking upon the law as an emanation of the divine will, or of 
persons acting in the name of the divine will, and to think of it as 
a human and variable -interpretation of a people's will. The 
authority that the Greek state wielded over its citizens was great. 
Sometimes it was disposed to regulate even the details of family 
life. But authority always had to be exercised in accord with 
norms which a majority had accepted. 

As we have already seen, those fundamental concepts were 
adapted as far as possible to European societies of the eighteenth 
and nineteenth centuries, and they have helped effectively to 
modify European political systems. They have made their 
influence felt wherever there have been peoples of European 
origin, and today, through the intellectual contacts that the 
East is having with Europe and America, they are reverberat- 
ing in Japan and China and among other peoples of Asiatic 


1. The political constitution of the Italic city had many points 
in common with the constitution of the Greek city. This may 
have been due to racial affinities between the Italic and Hellenic 
peoples, as has often been suggested. Through the Greek col- 
onies in Sicily and Magna Graecia, Greek civilization may have 
made its influence felt upon the Italic peoples in an age much 
more remote than the period during which those colonies were 
conquered by the Romans. 

However that may be, in the primitive Italian city too, we 
find a king, a council of notables and a popular assembly. There 
are references in the Roman histories to the existence of the 
kingly office among the Etruscans and Latins at a period when 
Rome still had kings, or had only recently driven them out the 
case of Porsena, for instance. Veii seems still to have had a king 
when it was captured by the Romans in 395 B.C. Then later 
on, at the end of the fourth century B.C., and in the early decades 
of the third, when the really historic period begins and the Italic 
populations are being forced to recognize the supremacy of Rome, 
we find no trace of hereditary royalty it seems to have disap- 
peared everywhere among them. What we do find are rivalries 
between aristocracy and plebs. They are in full swing. It was 
the general policy of Rome to favor the aristocrats in these 
quarrels in other cities. She very soundly reasoned that her 
supremacy could more safely be rested upon such elements, as 
more inclined to conservatism and social tranquillity. The better 
to attain that end, she granted citizenship quite freely to notables 
in the federated cities. 

In a remote age Rome herself had her kings, her senate, com- 
posed of the heads of the various patrician clans that had com- 
bined in a federation to form the early city, and also her popular 
assembly, or comitium. Then hereditary royalty was abolished, 
as in Greece, and replaced by the consulate and other magis- 



trades. These were elective, temporary and almost always 
"multiple," the same function being simultaneously entrusted 
to different persons. In Rome, too, conflicts soon arose between 
the old patrician citizenry, made up of members of the ancient 
gentes, and a new plebeian citizenry, made up largely of descend- 
ants of settlers from other places and of freed slaves. For a 
time, virtually two cities seem to have coexisted within the con- 
fines of the urbs, with magistracies peculiar to each. Then the 
two cities almost completely fused in an organization that closely 
resembled the Hellenic type which w$ have just considered. This 
Roman constitution, like the Greek, was designed to fit a city- 
state, but it was nevertheless distinguished by a number of 
profoundly original details. 

First among them, and the most fertile in practical conse- 
quences, was a broadening of the right of citizenship, its preroga- 
tives being subdivided in such a way that, alongside of the 
full-fledged citizenship, there was a partial citizenship whereby 
a resident could enjoy some of the prerogatives of the citizen 
and little by little acquire the assimilation that was necessary 
if he were to become equal before the law with the members of 
the Roman city proper. The prerogatives of the full citizen 
(civis optimi juris) were the jus commercii, the jus conubii, the 
jus suffragii and the jus honorum. The first bestowed enjoyment 
of all the private rights of the Roman citizen. The second 
allowed marriages with Roman citizens, male or female. The 
third gave the right to participate in the comitia, the fourth the 
right to hold public office. The first two rights were granted 
quite readily. They served ordinarily as a preparation for 
obtaining the other rights. 

This device admitted of such an extension of the Roman citizen- 
ship that many persons enjoyed it who lived so far from Rome 
that, even having the right, they could scarcely avail themselves 
of the privilege of attending the comitia. In a word, Rome found 
a way to snap the fatal circle that had prevented the Greek city 
from expanding. By granting citizenship to people who lived 
far from Rome, she built steps, so to speak, in the abyss which, in 
Greece, had separated the man who was a citizen from the man 
who was not. In that way Rome was able to have 92,000 
citizens inscribed on her rolls by 265 B.C., the year before the 
outbreak of the first Punic War, and despite the losses she suffered 


in that war she still had 240,000 citizens in 246, in the interval 
between the first and second Punic Wars. So she was in a posi- 
tion to recruit the many legions which enabled her to survive the 
terrible trials she suffered during Hannibal's invasion of Italy. 1 
Continuing along the same lines, Rome was able little by little to 
assimilate a vast territory and "make a city of the world": 

UrbemfeciMi quod prius orbis erat. 

So sang a native poet of Romanized Gaul in the fifth century 
A.D., the age that witnessed the death agony of the empire. 2 

The second original trait in the republican constitution of 
ancient Rome lay in the considerably more aristocratic character 
which it succeeded in maintaining as compared with the Greek. 
The Roman senate eventually ceased to be an assembly of the 
patresfamilias of the old clans. Its members were chosen by a 
"censor" from among men who had already held high offices. 
Not till a period relatively recent were the comitia centuriata 
reformed in such a way as to deprive the highly propertied classes 
of their preponderance in them; and quite tardily also were the 
comitia tributa, in which numbers prevailed decidedly over 
property, admitted to parity with the comitia centuriata. A 
democratic reform of the comitia centuriata, in the direction of 
removing them from the control of the propertied classes, was 
carried out in the period between 241 and 218 B.C., in other words 
between the end of the first Punic War and the beginning of the 
second. Equalization between the plebiscites voted by the 
comitia tributa and the laws voted by the comitia centuriata 
is said to have been established by a certain Hortensian law of the 
year 286, but authorities reserve doubts on that point. For 
that matter, a good many uncertainties linger about Roman 
constitutional law, perhaps because we try to find in it the clean- 
cut delimitation of functions between the various organs of state 
to which we have become accustomed in modern constitutions. 8 

But however the comitia were constituted, a law could not be 
passed by them except in the form in which the magistrates had 

1 De Sanctis, Storia dei Romani, vol. Ill, p. 193. 

* Butilius Itinerarium I, 66. Claudian, a contemporary of Rutiiius, uses a 
similar expression, In secundum consulatum Stiliconis, 150-160. 

'See, on this matter, Facchioni, Corso di diriito romano, vol. I, period II, 
chap. IV. 


proposed it and the senate, with all its prestige, had ratified it. 
As for elective offices, custom rather than law prevented their 
being conferred on real commoners down to the last days of the 
republic. The military tribunate was the first step that aspir- 
ants to a political career had to mount. Down to the Punic 
Wars that grade was open, as a matter of practice, only to 
members of the equestrian order, and it seems safe to assume 
that the few centurions who attained the rank of military tribunes 
during the Punic Wars were able to meet the property qualifica- 
tions of the equestrian. 1 Ferrero ha$ soundly noted that during 
the period of the civil wars, except in the case of Caius Marius, 
who, for that matter, seems to have had equestrian origins, 
armies were always commanded by members of the great Roman 
families. 2 

Another thing: Many citizens lived so far from Rome that a 
law provided that a trinundinum, an interval of sixteen or seven- 
teen (or, as others claim, of twenty-four) days had to elapse 
between the date of the convocation of the comitia and the date 
of their meeting. However the term trinundinum may be 
defined by modern scholars, it represented a period that was long 
enough for the senate to find any number of urgent cases that 
required its attention. This helped to multiply the functions and 
expand the authority of the senate, which was in a position to 
convene much more rapidly. Over this route the senate came to 
hold, by the end of the republic, virtually exclusive control of 
financial and foreign policy. 

2. Following the day of the Gracchi during the last century 
of the republic, in other words this aristocratic organization 
was modified or, rather, became unable to function normally. 
It became manifest that a city-state, organized along the lines 
of the Hellenic type, could not become a world-wide political 
body, however much it might be tinkered with or expanded. 
The comitia represented the legal assemblage of the whole 
sovereign people in the forum of Rome. That must already 
have seemed pretty much of a legal fiction by the time citizenship 
was extended to the peoples of Italy (88 B.C.). It became a 
grand jest when a large part, if not an actual majority, of the 

1 De Sanctis, Storia M Romani, vol. Ill, pp. 344r~&46. 
8 Qrandezza e decadenza di Roma, vol. I, p. 112. 


citizens were scattered over the whole Mediterranean basin, far 
from Italian shores. A census taken in 28 B.C., three years 
after the battle of Actium, placed the number of citizens at 
4,164,000. The census of the year 8 B.C. counted 4,233,000. 
The last census of which we have any information took place in 
A.D. 48, under the emperor Claudius. It counted 5,894,012 
citizens. Males under seventeen years of age and females were 
not included in the count. The figures of the year 28 B.C., there- 
fore, already corresponded to a population of between fourteen 
and fifteen million persons, a much larger population than Italy 
could then accommodate, especially if one thinks of slaves and 
foreign residents. 1 

Nor was the annual alternation in public offices any longer 
practicable, once the incumbents had to be absent from Italy 
for years, in remote provinces where they were invested with 
almost absolute power. For the same reason the armies lost 
their character as annually recruited citizen militias. Gradually 
they came to be more like armies of professional soldiers, who 
were more closely bound to the general who commanded them 
for year after year than to the state at large. It was inevitable, 
therefore, that the old civitas romana should be transformed into 
a political organism that would be held together and governed 
by a professional bureaucracy and a standing army. 

This transformation took place when, to use ordinary language, 
the empire replaced the republic. One can see no prospect of an 
end to the dispute as to the actual intentions that Augustus and 
his confederates had when they inaugurated the new regime. 
One thing is certain: They were not trying to replace the old 
system with either an absolute monarchy or a limited monarchy, 
as we understand those terms to-day. But it is just as certain 
that the new arrangements they introduced marked a decisive 
step toward transforming the old city-state into a new form of 
political organization, which made far easier the task of holding 
together, governing and slowly assimilating the vast dominions 
that Rome had succeeded in conquering. 

It is a law, and perhaps a constant law, that as political organ- 
isms are transformed, later organisms retain broad traces of 
earlier organisms, especially of those immediately preceding. 
The new edifice is built more or less on the ruins of the old, and, 
1 Marquardt, De I* organisation financier e chez les Romains, part 2, p. 387 (note). 


in part at least, of materials supplied by it. This law is clearly 
confirmed in the case of the Augustan reform. That reform did 
not deprive the comitia of legislative power at one stroke. 
Those assemblies continued to be convoked from time to time. 
They functioned intermittently for more than a century after the 
battle of Actium. But the power of enacting laws was little by 
little taken over by the senate and the emperor, and in the end 
entirely. Laws approved by the comitia are still important and 
numerous under Augustus. They are less frequent after his 
time, and then are gradually replaced by the senatus consultum 
and eventually by imperial decrees or institutes (constitutiones 
imperiales). The last law known to have been approved by the 
comitia was a lex agraria enacted under the emperor Nerva 
(reigned A.D. 96-98). l 

As for what would correspond to the executive and judiciary 
powers of today, these were divided between the senate and the 
emperor. The emperor was regarded as a civilian magistrate, 
who concentrated many powers in his own person, but left many 
others to the senate in matters that concerned the city of Rome, 
Italy and the senatorial provinces. He assumed the functions 
of an absolute sovereign from the first in imperial provinces. 
These were looked upon as subject to military occupation. The 
emperor governed at his discretion through a bureaucracy whose 
directors were chosen sometimes from among the senators but 
preferably from among ordinary equestrians. 2 

As always happens in the contacts and competitions that 
inevitably arise between the remnants of an old system and a 
new system that is better suited to the needs of an age, the offices 
that were filled by appointees of the senate kept diminishing in 
number. In the end few traces of them were left. In Borne 
itself, beginning with the first emperors of the Julian dynasty, 
much of the work done by the old honorary magistrates was 
taken over by new officials who were appointed by the emperor. 
Gradually the regular bureaucracy, manned by knights and even 
by the emperor's freedmen, made its influence more and more felt 

1 Pacchioni, Corso di diritto romano, vol. I, period IV, chaps. IX-XL 

2 For all this evolution of the ancient Roman city-state into a bureaucratic 
empire, see Pacchioni, op. dt. vol. I, period IV; Hartmann, Der Untergang der 
Antiken Welt; Ferrero, Orandezza e decadenza di Roma, vol. IV; Bryce, The Holy 
Roman Empire. 


throughout the empire. The senate itself came to be recruited 
from the higher bureaucracy and from the great families of Italy 
and later of the whole Roman world. In practice, after the 
first emperors, its authority was confined within such limits as 
the emperors and their creatures were pleased to draw. 1 

The empire faced a serious crisis in the second half of the third 
century and managed to survive it. But after that, Diocletian 
and Constantine had no difficulty in suppressing almost all 
memories and survivals of the old constitution of the city, or at 
least in reducing them to empty names that had no positive 
content. Two concepts only were salvaged from the wreck. 
One was that the emperor derived his authority from the people. 
Thanks to the lawyers, that theory hung on until Justinian's 
time. The jurists of that emperor's day gave the famous dictum 
of Ulpian, " Quod prindpi placuit legis habet vigorem (The Prince's 
pleasure is law)," a broad interpretation that it probably had 
not had at first; but in holding that the people had delegated legis- 
lative power to the sovereign in virtue of the lex regia de imperio, 
they too paid homage to the principle of popular sovereignty. 2 

The other was that every magistrate had a sharply delimited 
sphere of jurisdiction and should, at least theoretically, exer- 
cise his authority in accord with the law. To that principle 
may be due partly the fact that administration by the Roman 
bureaucracy was certainly more systematic, and therefore more 
effective, than anything that the ancient Near Eastern empires 
had known. Sufficient proof of that is the remarkable way in 
which it succeeded in spreading the language, laws, manners and 
customs of Rome, and in bringing almost all the civilized world 
of that time into moral unity. 

3. The prime causes for the decline of ancient civilization and 
the disintegration of the Roman Empire in the West constitute 
perhaps the most intricate and obscure problem in history. 
While studies of the last century have shed much light upon 
them, not all the darkness has yet been dispelled. 8 The most 
obscure point in that great historic phenomenon still remains its 
beginning. Why that falling off in the supply of superior men? 

1 Pacchioni, loc. cit., chap. IX. 

2 Pacchioni, loc. dt. t chap. XI. 

8 Ferrero, "La Ruine de la civilisation antique." 


Why that artistic and literary decadence? They are already 
manifest in the third century A.D., when the ancient pagan ideals 
were outworn and the new Christian ideal had not yet spread 
among the educated classes. 

Certainly there were many grave evils in Roman society under 
the Low Empire. The system of taxation was burdensome and 
absurd. It exhausted sources of wealth, and it fell especially 
upon the middle classes, in other words upon the provincial 
bourgeoisie that composed the decurionate of the cities and towns. 
The body of decurions was made up of people who could meet 
the higher property qualifications. It exercised functions that 
were somewhat similar to those of our boards of aldermen. But 
it also had charge of collecting direct taxes, and in case a city 
could not pay its assigned quota in full the decurions had to meet 
the deficit from their private means. The position of decurion 
was at first much sought after as a sign of social distinction. 
Eventually it became an abhorred one, and everybody tried to 
evade it. 

The decline of the middle classes left, facing each other, an 
aristocracy of great landed proprietors which supplied officials 
to the higher bureaucracy, and a numerous pauper class which, in 
the capital and the larger cities, was always in turmoil and lived 
partly on the dole of the state and later of the Church, or else 
drifted along in the country in the semislavery of the tillers of 
the soil. Public safety was a very sketchy thing, and brigandage 
was rife. The historians mention one Bulla, who for a long time 
scoured Italy at the head of a gang of six hundred bandits. In 
Gaul brigandage by outlawed serfs, called bagaudae ("wan- 
derers," "knapsackers"?) long persisted. For the rest, to see 
how widespread brigandage was at the time, one has only to 
read one of the few novels that classical antiquity bequeathed to 
us, the Golden Ass (Metamorphoses) of Apuleius. The rich 
defended themselves in these circumstances by maintaining 
private guards strong-armed ruffians who were called buccelarii 
("hardtack"). People of moderate or small fortunes had no 
way of defending themselves. They simply succumbed. Public 
hygiene was not advanced far enough to allow the normal incre- 
ment in population to fill the gaps left by famine, pestilence, raids 
by barbarians and other causes of unusual mortality. As hap- 
pens in all very mature civilizations where religious checks are 


weak, the birth rate seems to have been low. Not even by the 
fifth century had Christianity penetrated the rural plebs deeply 
enough to overcome voluntary abortions and exposures of the 
newborn. The latter practice was so common in antiquity that 
recognitions of exposed foundlings were among the commonest 
themes in the ancient theater. 

Beginning with Diocletian's time, in order to deal with 'the 
grave depression that had fallen upon the empire about the middle 
of the third century, the state assumed extraordinary powers and 
exercised extraordinary functions of control. It presumed to 
discipline the whole economic sphere of life, fixing wages and 
the prices of crops. In order to assure continuity in what we 
would now call "public services," it prohibited those who were 
employed in them from leaving their positions and obliged the 
son to follow the trade his father had followed. Administration 
was seriously affected with a disease that is the curse of bureau- 
cratic systems and the source of their every weakness bribery, 
venality, graft. The Roman official of the Low Empire generally 
paid more attention to his private interests than to the public 
interest which he was charged to look out for. It is known from 
the many contemporary allusions that even at the highest levels 
of the bureaucratic scale nothing could be obtained without 
lavish gifts. When, for instance, the emperor Valens allowed 
the Goths to cross the Danube and settle in the territories 
of the empire, officials were commissioned to distribute food to 
them and take away their arms. But the officials were bribed 
with gifts. They left the barbarians their arms and appropriated 
the supplies. Very instructive in this connection is the report 
on an inquiry that was conducted in Tripolitania toward the 
end of the fourth century. It is digested in detail byAmmianus 
Marcellinus. 1 

On the other hand it must not be forgotten that no human 
society is without its ills, and that along with them almost always 
comes a natural healing force that tends to mitigate their effects. 
The eastern empire suffered from the same troubles as the west- 
ern. It was not only able to survive them, but in the sixth 
century, under Justinian, and again in the eighth and ninth, under 
the iconoclastic emperors and the Macedonian dynasty, it had 
noteworthy spurts of energy. At those times it managed to save 
j XXVIII, 6, 5. 


most of its territory and civilization from the barbarians who 
were attacking from the north, and it did the same later on 
against the Arabs. 

An individual dies when his organs are worn out by age and 
are no longer able to function normally, or else when he has 
weakened from some cause or other and is unable to resist infec- 
tion. At first sight it might seem as though old age could never 
affect a people or a civilization, since human generations always 
reproduce themselves and each new generation has all the vigor of 
youth. Yet something that is altogether comparable to old age 
or organic debilitation does manifest itself in peoples. There 
come times when moral bonds seem to slacken, when the religion, 
or the patriotic sentiment, that has been the instrument of social 
cohesion, loses its hold and when the natural healing force, the 
power to react, fails to operate. This is because the better 
elements in society are paralyzed, and they are paralyzed because 
they have turned their activity and their energies to purposes 
other than the things essential to the salvation of the state. The 
measure of this internal weakness is the relative insignificance 
of the external shock that produces the catastrophe. We see 
great peoples fall before onslaughts by peoples who were but 
recently their inferiors in armament, in knowledge and in 

The great intrusion of the Germanic peoples upon the Roman 
Empire was precipitated at the end of the fourth century by the 
impact of the Huns. The empire in the west was called upon to 
meet that shock at a critical moment, when the ideas and senti- 
ments that had constituted the moral foundations of the old 
classical civilization had languished and a wave of mysticism was 
sweeping the empire, depriving the state of all its better elements, 
of almost all individuals who were distinguished by loftiness of 
character or mind, and giving them to the Church. 1 The eastern 
part of the Roman world survived because, owing to its geo- 
graphical position, perhaps, it had time to get past the critical 
moment and rally its forces. The western portion did not. It 
was almost wholly under the control of the barbarians by the 
middle of the fifth century. 

It is noteworthy that toward the end of the fourth century 
and in the first half of the fifth, while the western empire is 

1 Mosca, Teorica dei gwerni t chap. II, 6, p. 87. 


crumbling, the Church glitters with a constellation of superior 
men St. Ambrose, St. Jerome, St. Augustine, St. Paulinus of 
Nola, Paulus Orosius, Salvian of Marseilles and others still. 
With the exception of Theodosius, and the unfortunate Majorian, 
one of the last emperors in the West, there is hardly a native 
Roman of any character or brains who devotes himself to the 
service of the state. Characteristic in this connection is an 
anecdote related by St. Augustine. A certain Pontitianus was 
attending the emperor at the circus at Trier in Germany. He 
went for a walk with three other officers of the imperial retinue 
in the gardens near the walls. They chanced to enter a monas- 
tery and began to examine a manuscript of the life of St. Anthony 
as written by Athanasius, archbishop of Alexandria. The read- 
ing had such an effect on them that they immediately resigned 
from the imperial service and entered the Church. 

4. After the barbarians had settled in all the old provinces of 
the western empire, the process of political and civil disintegra- 
tion that had begun in the third century A.D. went rapidly on. In 
the beginning a number of the early barbarian rulers, espe- 
cially the Ostrogoth Theodoric, seem to have made an effort to 
retain the personnel of the old Roman civil administration as far 
as possible, reserving the military defense of the country to the 
invaders. But the new regimes could hardly adapt themselves 
to the complicated bureaucratic machine of the Romans. The 
old system presupposed an administrative experience and a legal 
education that the conquerors did not have. The barbarian 
kings, besides, found themselves obliged to reward their followers 
with most of the lands of the conquered. That could not fail to 
upset the society of the time. The upper classes of Roman origin 
either adapted themselves to the life and ways of the barbarians, 
or else disappeared into the plebs. The redistribution of land 
meantime must have prepared the way for the development of 
the great landed proprietor into the local hereditary sovereign. 
There is another factor also. After growing somewhat accus- 
tomed to Roman civilization and institutions, the early invaders 
often were replaced by others, wto were completely uncivilized. 
So the Goths were replaced by the Lombards. It is easy to 
understand, therefore, that after a century or two almost nothing 
of the old Roman state machine should have been left, and that 


the new regime should prove utterly incompetent in the long 
run to keep the structure of a great state sound and solid under a 
single government. 

The new system was modeled on the institutions, and founded 
on the sentiments, with which the Germanic tribes had been 
accustomed to govern in their native homes, in other words, on 
the reciprocal ties of personal loyalty that bound the high chief 
of the warrior band to his subordinates. The ruin of the great 
barbarian monarchy was arrested for two or three generations by 
the energetic Prankish dynasty of the Heristals, and especially 
by Charlemagne, a truly gifted sovereign, who tried to revive 
the Roman tradition of unity and centralization. But after 
Charlemagne's death the process of disintegration went on with 
rapid acceleration under the pressure of new incursions by Hun- 
garians, Normans and Saracens. By the tenth century the 
independence of the local chiefs as regarded the central power was 
virtually complete, and the system that was later to be called 
"feudal" was functioning in the fact. 

Feudalism was not, and could not be, a reversion pure and 
simple to the situation that Rome had found in the western world 
before she conquered it a congeries of mutually hostile tribes 
and small peoples. Certain intellectual advances had been made 
the adoption of a common language, for instance and espe- 
cially material improvements. Such things once acquired are 
never entirely lost, even when the political organization that 
has made them possible dissolves completely. A people that has 
grown accustomed to living in one territory, to an agriculture 
based upon private property, to a certain differentiation in social 
classes, does not lose those characteristic habits of mind entirely, 
even after a long period of anarchy. Some of the materials of 
which the feudal edifice was built were, moreover, mere develop- 
ments and continuations of institutions of the Low Empire. We 
know, for instance, that serfdom, the chain that bound the 
populous class of agricultural laborers to the soil, goes back into 
the Roman period. In rural districts, therefore, the new regime 
merely transformed the villa of the old Roman proprietor into 
the fortified castle of the baron. 

Feudalism introduced a number of novelties for one thing, 
the political supremacy of an exclusively warrior class. That 
left to the clergy the task of keeping such bits of culture as had 


survived the catastrophe of the ancient world alive. Another 
characteristic of the feudal system was the centralization of all 
administrative functions, and all social influence, in the local 
military leader, who at the same time was master of the land 
the one instrument, virtually, for the production of wealth which 
still existed. 

Feudalism, finally, created a new type of sovereignty that was 
intermediate between the central, coordinating organ of the state 
and the individual. Once their position had become hereditary, 
the more important local leaders bound lesser leaders to them- 
selves by subgrants of land, and these lesser chiefs were tied by 
oaths of feudal homage and fidelity to the man who made the 
grant. They, therefore, had no direct relations with the head 
of the feudal confederation as a whole the king. In fact, they 
felt obliged to fight the king if the leader to whom they were 
directly bound was at war with him. This, certainly, was the 
main cause of the long resistance which the feudal system offered 
to the continuous efforts of the central power to destroy it. 

5. Bryce wrote that "the two great ideas which expiring 
antiquity bequeathed to the ages that followed were of a World- 
Monarchy and a World-Religion." 1 In fact, down to the four- 
teenth century, the memory of the old unity of all civilized and 
Christian peoples, guided in religious matters by the Roman 
pontiff, who little by little gained re